Warehouse Stuck in the Neolithic Age? 4 Ways to Automate Your Facility

When it comes to the warehouse industry, the future is automation. This involves several components that all work together in order to get the task done. Here are some of the ways that you can automate your facility and bring it into the next century. 

Cartonization 

Through the use of technology, you can save some money on your shipping costs by employing cartonization methods. This is where the size and number of boxes are calculated in the most efficient manner possible to get the order out the door. Automation has made this task a little bit easier because your employees don’t have to spend time trying to get all of your customer orders packaged into boxes safely for shipment. 

Robotic Technology 

Another advantage when it comes to automation is through the use of robots.There are any number of robotic technologies that can used across a variety of different types of manufacturing fields. For example, robotic arms can be used to remove and stock whole pallets or individual items on a shelving system in your warehouse. This may eliminate some of the concerns that are more prevalent when it comes to workplace injuries that could occur. 

Automatic Pallet Wrapping 

It may take two employees for you to be able wrap up your pallets for shipping without the use of technology. Automatic pallet wrapping systems are available for you to purchase from companies like Fox Packaging Services. The point of many these machines is that your employees only need to position the pallet and then push a button in order to have it done in the most efficient manner possible. This will prevent the loss of products during the shipping process. 

Automated Labeling Systems 

Labeling all of your products can be a tedious process. It can also lead to mistakes if you have a person completing this task. Using an automated printing and label applying machine ensures that the label is done correctly and applied in the correct location all of the time. It allows your employees to focus on the more important tasks when it comes to running your warehouse. More quality control steps can be taken to ensure that your products are the best on the market. 

There are advantages when it comes to the use of technology in manufacturing and warehouses. More automation often leads to higher-skilled labor who can work to refine the process further. Consider these reasons when it comes to the benefits of upgrading your facility.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

Should Your Business Consider Chatbots?

The business community has benefited greatly from advancements in digital communication technologies. Today, there’s practically no end to the ways companies and brand representatives can engage with, troubleshoot for, market to or otherwise stay in touch with their fans and customers.

Chatbots are a relatively new addition to a bundle of tools that already included email, video chat, SMS, social networking and more. Chatbots are the next logical step in many ways when it comes to keeping businesses and customers in constant and easy contact. But they’re not for everybody. Below are some of the advantages of — plus one or two warnings about — chatbots to help you decide if it’s the right time and the right tool for your company.

What’s a Chatbot?

This word is one of those terms that pretty much gives it all away up front: A chatbot is an audio-based or text-based assistant that can autonomously help customers find answers to questions, troubleshoot problems or carry out other business-related tasks, such as ordering or re-ordering products, changing payment information, inquiring about or renewing subscriptions and memberships and much more.

Command-based chatbots are relatively rudimentary but still deceptively “intelligent.” They can respond to customer inquiries using heuristics that match replies with the most relevant topics or sub-menus for the customer.

On the other hand, AI-based chatbots are more sophisticated but also have a further way to go before they’re available to a wider array of businesses and more consistently able to reply accurately to any inquiry. But chatbots powered by AI are undoubtedly already showing their potential: Thanks to their use of natural language processing, they can reply “from scratch” instead of using canned responses. They can even become better over time at picking up meaning and intent from conversations with human callers.

With the different types of chatbots a little better understood, let’s move on to the main question, which is whether or not chatbots are worth the investment for your business. For a start, some industries are simply a likelier fit than others.

If Chatbots Make Sense for Your Industry

Chatbots are a relatively new concept, but they do already exist out in the wild. And there are several frontrunners when it comes to the types of industries that are well-suited to adopting chatbots. Some of them are:

  • Hospitality
  • Banking and financial services
  • Retail
  • Service-based companies

Based on polling, some 80 percent of business representatives would be interested in bringing chatbots into the fold at their company. But early popularity in the industries mentioned above already indicates which use-cases might yield the best results and return on investment. In hospitality, guests and travelers often require nearly instant solutions for checking into hotels and lodging, boarding airplanes and other conveyances, choosing venues, organizing transportation for meetings and conventions and a multitude of other tasks that have to happen at the speed of business.

In financial services, chatbots can help even regional banks and nonprofit credit unions provide members with account information or help them tailor their retirement or college savings. In retail and services environments, chatbots can pick up some of the slack during high-traffic times of the day or season by taking orders, pointing customers to what they’re looking for and more.

The point is, there might be use cases in your industry, and there might not be. Industries that depend on timely, accurate, always-available customer interactions appear to be early favorites, but as the technology improves, applications will undoubtedly continue to appear almost everywhere.

If You (and Your Customers) Value Time

On the customer and the company side of things, the first major advantage of chatbots is that they’re on standby 24 hours a day and don’t take a single day off during the year, provided there aren’t any technical snafus behind the scenes.

Allowing customers to have their questions answered on their own time is great already, but chatbots also save time for the company by providing an automated solution to the “problem” of answering common inquiries all day long. Both parties can breathe easier. Customers know they won’t have to try their luck calling back during business hours or trawling through a website for answers, and businesses know their employees are a little freer to respond to other, more urgent demands on their time.

There are one or two caveats when it comes to using chatbots in extremely customer-facing industries. Human beings know — or can be trained by locals — to respect cultural taboos and avoid words or phrases that might cause offense in another country or region.

The problem of maintaining cultural propriety during international affairs is not a new problem. But while it seems to make sense to turn chatbots into public liaisons in regions where you don’t have a strong employee presence to process customer calls, those chatbots had better have been developed with linguistic and cultural input from the region they’re intended to serve.

Being mindful of potential cultural frictions and even the subtleties of respectful political correctness is key to successfully using a chatbot to fill in your service gaps here and abroad.

If You Want Additional Insight Into Your User Base

The average interaction between a human customer and a chatbot can yield a surprising amount of information about your user base — too much, potentially, for a human operator to take in all at once, much less record and pass on to interested parties.

A phone conversation is practically analog compared with a chatbot chat when it comes to the potential to take in information from your user base. When your customers interact with your chatbot, with just a couple of simple questions and basic analytics, you’ll come away with a greater understanding of how they use your products, where common sources of frustration are coming from and nitty-gritty details. These details include their location, the device type they’re using to contact you or interact with your services and other factors that might be of interest to your marketing team, your R&D team or both.

Chatbots are here already — and companies are figuring out how best to put them to work. By 2021, say industry experts, the chatbot “market” — including third-party cloud-based chatbot solutions — should reach a total value of $15.8 billion. That’s a ringing endorsement. Just remember that chatbots are a product like any other, and computing their probable ROI isn’t that much different, no matter what else you’re promised by a software vendor. In some cases, the human touch might just be the better choice for your business anyway — you’ll need to decide based on your unique circumstances.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

The Exciting Future Of Robot Development

There’s a lot the future is going to bring us. Considering everything going on in the world right now, we know things are going to be extremely different in 5 or 10 years time. And there’s no future possibility more exciting (or daunting, depending on who you ask) than the idea of robots operating in our society.

Sure, we already have forms of AI in our phones and in our houses to play music and record the shopping list for us, but what about actual walking and talking robots with semi-human faces? Are they on their way? With that question in mind, here’s some technological developments in the works regarding our mechanical counterparts right now.

There’s a lot of imagination surrounding the future of robots, and the future isn’t so distant…

Humanoid Robots are On Their Way

But don’t worry, we’ll still be able to tell them from any other humans out there! The idea about having robots take jobs away from people, considering the rates of unemployment out there currently, but having an AI to take part in potentially dangerous tests and experiments to save any human from having to participate can be seen as a huge success.

The idea of bringing cybernetics into the work sector is something that’s debated a lot, but also focused on as something we can move into to make the working world both safer and easier. Check out articles on Human Paragon if you want to know more about this in particular; there’s a lot artificial intelligence can perform or pick up on that many humans cannot, and it’s this idea of efficiency in human form that excites a lot of companies out there.

AI Looking After Your House

We already have Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home to sit on our coffee tables and tell us the weather, but is there bigger ways an AI can take part in your household? Apparently, yes. Already there’s an app to allow these technologies to control the lights and the heating in your house, as long as there’s an electronic connection between the two.

And we see it all the time on the TV and in movies; the sci-fi genre is often based on the idea that an AI is in control or on the rise over humans. But it won’t quite work out that way in reality: they simply make running a household a lot more convenient and easy, and they can order things online for us. You can turn off the categories of data they take on you, and they can always be switched off or unplugged if you’re worried about what they’re gathering.

What are your thoughts on the coming implementation of robots? If you’re someone who likes the idea of a technological world, this is something to look forward to. Don’t worry, the security surrounding these ideas aren’t as bleak as the media can make them seem, but you can always choose what AI comes in and out of your house.

A Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Stock Market Trading Business

The stock market is often seen as this mysterious thing that people throw money at in the hope that they’ll get more back in return. Many people believe that trading stocks is something you do in your spare time, or as a long-term investment on the side. However, starting a business in this industry can be one of the best decision you ever make.

If you look at some of the richest people on planet earth, a lot of them have a history of trading. There are massive companies on Wall Street that trade millions, sometimes even billions, of dollars worth of stocks/shares. They make in one day what a lot of businesses would be lucky to make in a lifetime.

Obviously, you won’t see this type of success right away; every business has to start somewhere and grow to be great. Keeping that in mind, how can you get involved in the stock market, and start your own trading business? If this is something that interests; you, then you’re in the right place. Below, there’s a guide to help you pursue this business idea:

Brush Up On Your Stock Market Knowledge

It would be fair to assume that most people interested in this business idea will already have a bit of an interest in the stock market. As a result, you could already have some semblance of knowledge on this subject. However, it’s well worth brushing up on your stock market knowledge and becoming something of an expert. This will help you learn more about the field you’re going into, and figure out some of the tricks of the trade. A simple bit of research and studying can help you understand basic things like the best times to trade, which stock markets you should trade on, and how much money you should start with. Of course, the more you trade, the more this knowledge will grow. But, it’s definitely worth taking a few weeks or months to properly study the stock market before you start opening your business.

Decide How Much Money You Want To Start Trading With

A stock market business requires you to have a pool of money to kick everything off. This can come from your own bank account, or you may think about applying for a relevant loan to raise the capital. Some people have sold their home and downsized just so they get enough money to start trading with. It’s entirely up to you how you get this money, but it’s not exactly the same as looking for regular startup funds. With many businesses, you have lots of startup costs and overhead expenses. As a result, you can apply for business loans, look for investors, or start crowdfunding schemes. With a stock market business, it’s unlikely that you’ll find an investor or manage to raise money crowdfunding. Your best bet is either your own money or a loan. Regardless, think about how much money you want to start with. This will be your little pot of trading cash, and the key is that it’s never empty. No matter how many trades you make, you should never have a point where there’s no money in your account. The more successful you get, the bigger this pool of money becomes!

Get Your Hands On The Right Software

Trading businesses are pretty much built around the trading software you use. As someone who will devote their life to trading, you need to ensure you have the best tools at your disposal. There are loads of different software offerings around the web these days. Some of which include features that let you run simulations, analyze data and find the best trades to make. For someone starting a business, you need to think about software that allows you to do algorithmic trading. Why? Because this type of trading is automated. The software creates algorithms that let you run so many more trades per day than you could possibly do by yourself. This is how all the big boys make their money; they have computers running the numbers and doing everything for them. It’s an essential part of your business, and you need to make sure you have the best software available.

Slowly Bring In Some Staff

The great thing about this business is that you can start it on your own. You can begin trading from your bedroom and enjoy a fair bit of success. The other great thing is that it’s a business idea that you can grow. Not only that, but growing and expanding your stock market business is much easier than many other businesses. One thing you can do is hire some staff. Bring in some more traders, and you have more heads trading stocks and making money for the company. This is how you go from being a lone trader in your bedroom to a big company in a massive office on Wall Street! Success clearly doesn’t happen overnight, but you can slowly build up to it by bringing in more people as you become more successful. What’s more, the people you bring in can be experts in certain fields. One person could be an expert on the UK stock market, while another could know everything about the US one – and so on. This helps your business as you get more knowledge aboard the ship, which helps you sail towards more successful trades and higher profits.

stock2

Grow your business and get an office like this! Source

Start Offering Trading Services

Another way you can expand your original business idea is by offering different trading services to individuals. Remember way back at the start when I said most people see trading as a hobby or investment opportunity? Well, it’s time to cater your business to them. As well as making your own trades and earning money that way, you can charge a fee to invest for other people as well. Essentially, you act as a broker and help them spend their money in the best way possible. They pay you, and then they end up with profits thanks to your trading expertise. Why don’t you do this in the beginning? For me, it’s better to focus on trading on the stock market to earn money for your business at the start of this idea. You’ll be new to the scene, and you may struggle to find success at the beginning! So, if you took on clients at this time, then you could have a lot of unhappy people knocking on your door after you lose their money. But, as you become more successful, then it only makes sense to branch out and create dual streams of income. Especially as you now have employees to pay as well!

Admittedly, this business idea isn’t for everyone. However, if you want to get involved with the stock market, then it can be a great way of making money. One of the main reasons to start this type of business is that you pretty much control the growth of it. If you want it to remain a one-person operation, and you’re happy with the money you make, then you can do that until the end of time. But, if you want to grow and create a massive company, then there are easy ways to expand and do just that. What’s more, it’s a rare business idea that doesn’t depend on finding customers – at least not until you offer brokerage services. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about marketing your company or reeling in leads, all you need to care about is the stock market itself!

AI Is Building Brands, Right In Front Of Our Eyes

It seems as if artificial intelligence is never out of the news. Practically every single day, there is some new breakthrough that promises to change the world. Just in the last month, for instance, Google Deepmind announced that they had created AI with a memory – meaning that their systems could learn something, remember it, and then learn something new straight after.

In other news, AI is now able to take a photograph and recreate it in the style of a painting. For instance, suppose you’ve got a photograph of your mother-in-law. This new AI will allow that photograph to be re-imagined in the form of a Picasso or Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

Given that branding is all about visual imagery, it makes one wonder whether AI could be used to improve how companies do their marketing. After all, if AI is able to understand a company’s visual characteristics, it could presumably come up with a bunch of marketing materials automatically.

AI-Curated Content

AI1

Pexels

We already see this kind of technology being deployed to help companies choose stock photos. On most business websites, stock photos are pretty generic and don’t really do anything to enhance the appeal of the company. But now, thanks to AI, it’s possible to automatically classify photographs according to their brand relevance. In other words, you don’t need a digital designer on your team to tell you whether a particular photo will work or not; you just need to run some software.

AI-Assisted Audience Targeting

Another way AI is helping companies is through audience targeting. Using conventional statistics and data, companies are able to track their customer’s preferences and make predictions about their behaviour. But without a thinking system behind the analytics, there’s only so far they can be taken. Often, analytics appeal to the average, rather than the specific customer, based on their specific tastes.

AI2

Pixabay
The good news is that smart algorithms are a lot better at parsing data than people, allowing them to make branding more personalised. Companies will soon be able to offer customers banner ads that speak directly to them, rather to their audience in general. This could lead to a world in which companies are able to offer customers prices on a customer-by-customer basis, depending on their overall spending patterns.

AI Brand Generation

Artificial intelligence isn’t just combining art with photos to create strange chimeras; it’s also coming up with its own concept art. The first example of this was Google Deep Dream, a strange algorithm that tried to invent new images based on animal images in its database. What it ultimately produced looked like something out of the seventh layer of hell, but over time, the ability of computers to come up with their own artwork has improved.

AI3

Wikipedia

For many marketers, this is a promising development. What it means is that it will soon be able to generate photorealistic content without having to go to the source. New content from the brand could be created every day at virtually no cost whatsoever. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?