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The Interview: Exotec, Past, Present, And Future – Simon Jones

Systems integrator, L-A-C Logistics Automation has a range of qualities that are not often seen in the UK marketplace. It has manufacturing capability and abundant experience in a wide variety of sectors. L-A-C also has a growing software team, backing up innovative robotic solutions and partnerships with worldwide robotic pioneers, like Exotec. By implementing the Exotec Skypod System, many businesses can realise a few powerful benefits. Exotec delivers rapid order fulfilment, flexibility, modularity, and high-density storage with no single point of failure.

L-A-C sat down with Simon Jones, Exotec’s Senior Sales Executive to discuss all things Exotec, past, present, and future.


What are your best-known pr­oducts/solutions/services?


Exotec’s main solution is our unique Skypod storage and fulfilment system that increases picking and put-away productivity by five times compared to manual systems. Our climbing robots can utilise up to 12 metres of ceiling height which enables high-density storage and reduces the floor space required. 


Skypod has been designed to be a fully modular system which enables rapid deployment and easy expansion when required. This solution has been deployed to over 70 customer sites around the world, and we are proud partners of L-A-C Logistics Automation in the UK.


Which industry sectors are your customers in, and which ones are growing fastest?


We have customers across all industries, including grocery, e–commerce, retail replenishment and B2B industrial products. Our system appeals to customers who need to achieve a step change in productivity, maximise the use of their available storage space and retain the flexibility to respond quickly to changing markets and rapid order turnaround times.

In 2022, we experienced tremendous growth in business from automotive spare parts distributors across Europe and North America.


What are your most recent product or innovations etc?


We are increasingly being asked by customers to provide end–to–end warehouse solutions. A key part of our customer proposal is that we guarantee the performance and availability of our system.


To achieve this across the whole warehouse we have recently launched three new products, including Skypath, a plug–and–play modular conveyor system, Skypicker, a robot arm solution that allows fully automated piece picking at 600 units per hour, and Deepsky, our own fully configurable WCS (Warehouse Control System). Deepsky integrates our equipment with third–party systems like packing machinery and palletisers. This solution controls the flow from process to process and provides central coordination.


What are the major trends and developments affecting your category and your customers, and how are you responding?


In the UK we are seeing increasing demand from third–party logistics providers for higher–performance automation systems like ours. In the past they would often rely on manual fulfilment operations; focusing on marginal gains to drive efficiency. 


However, due to the impact of labour shortages and the cost of land, this is no longer enough. 3PLs must find a way to make significant cost reductions for their customers. Increasingly they are turning to solutions like ours and working with their customers to extend contract lengths to enable the investment. As a company, we are working with 3PLs to facilitate this innovative approach, both from a commercial and an engineering perspective.


Can you tell us about any recent customer contracts and how you helped the customer meet their challenges?


Here in the UK, our partner L-A-C Logistics Automation has recently gone live with their first customer site for iForce. Our Skypod system is being deployed to iForce’s 800,000 ft2 flagship facility in Northamptonshire and has been managed by L-A-C in close consultation with our team. We have also been awarded some exciting new contracts in the UK which we will be revealed in the coming months.


How does business in 2023 compare to previous years? What is your strategy for succeeding in the current climate?


Exotec has doubled in size year on year for the last four years and was recognised by the Financial Times as the 8th fastest–growing company in Europe. While this is a tough record to maintain, we see enormous opportunities here in the UK with our partner L-A-C and around the rest of the world.


We do not believe the current climate will change retailers need to continue to provide the best service to their customers at the lowest cost and risk. This means our solution is required more than ever. 


What is the latest news from your company?


We have recently confirmed our commitment to manufacturing in Europe by starting the construction of a new purpose-built head office and factory in Lille, France. Short supply chains and direct control of our development and manufacturing allow us to deliver reliably to our customers. 


Can you tell us about any areas where you are currently making technical advances? Eg. safety, sustainability, environment?


Thanks to its unique design, Skypod uses a fraction of the energy required by traditional automation systems of comparable sizes and performances.


The system also has a lot of built–in safety measures, and we have reduced the stress on users by providing highly ergonomic workstations. In addition to this, the Exotec system is incredibly quiet compared to traditional automation, resulting in a much less taxing environment for operators to work in.


Are you taking part in any major trade shows? Can you tell us what you will be exhibiting there?


In the UK we will be at the UKWA (UK Warehousing Association) Annual Conference, IntraLogistex and IWLEX (Inside Warehouse Logistics Expo). We will also be attending some of the main shows in Europe including LogiMat and SITL.


What sets your company apart from the competition?


Many things set us apart from traditional warehouse automation. For example, we commit to performance and availability targets as standard, with a total cost of ownership maintenance plans. We sell a guarantee of performance and availability over the life of a system, rather than some robots or machinery. Our customers really appreciate this transparent approach and peace of mind.


Our modular system means our customers can have fully operational systems very quickly, often within 12 months. In addition, the ease with which the system can be expanded, both in terms of storage capacity and volume throughput, is a huge benefit. This can be done without disrupting the operation and means customers can have the size of system they need now, without having to pay upfront for the capacity they may or may not need in the future.


Which other countries do you operate in or export to?


We have offices in France, Germany, Japan, and the US, plus we have client sites in more than 10 countries.


How future-proof and flexible are your solutions?


Flexibility and scalability are both integral to our solutions. Our robot is the main moving part, so there are no single points of failure, and the system adapts easily to changes in volumes and order profiles. 


We have many customers fulfilling both store replenishment and e–commerce orders concurrently from the same system. This fluctuating demand does not disrupt system performance and allows massive space saving by having the two operations combined. Our customers can also rent robots during peak periods, helping them maintain maximum flexibility and customer service levels.


We expect to support our customers for a minimum of 10 years with maintenance and expansion capability.


For more information, contact L-A-C today!


L-A-C’s team of experts are here to support you from concept to the finished system, working together to design and deliver a bespoke solution that meets your current objectives and future growth expectations, with favourable ROI. 


Across semi-automated and fully automated systems, L-A-C has the expertise and range of products to provide flexible and scalable solutions that will significantly enhance your operations and keep you agile as your business evolves. 


Join us on a pivotal journey towards a more efficient, productive, cost effective and sustainable future with L-A-C’s innovative automation technology solutions.

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