28 minutes | Sep 26th 2020

LogistiVIEW, Inc: Seth Patin

Seth Patin of LogistiVIEW discusses his company’s automation software, and the incredible family support that has gotten him through starting and running a business even amid a pandemic. Danny:

Well, welcome, and thank you for joining me today on today’s IndustrialSage Executive Series interview. I am joined today by Seth Patin, who is the CEO and founder of LogistiVIEW. Seth, thank you so much for joining me today: coming all the way in from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Seth:

That’s correct, yeah. I went all the way to my office for this fantastic Zoom call. Definitely a little different than it used to be, but great to be here virtually.

Danny:

That is very exciting. Is it your first time back in the office?

Seth:

No, actually, I’ve spent most of my time through the pandemic in my office. So one of the advantages to being the founder and CEO of the company is you can kick all the employees out and have them work from home and then be a social distancing champ in 7,000 square feet all by yourself, all day long.

Danny:

I may or may not have done that myself. So I hear you. It’s really hard to work from home. I don’t know; do you have ki– we’re getting off-topic, but it’s fine.

Seth:

Yeah, I have three young daughters, and during the first part of the pandemic, they were doing school and everything. So my home office was reallocated to them.

Danny:

Yep.

Seth:

I’m, obviously, on the phone all the time and, of course, three young girls aren’t quiet.

Danny:

Exactly.

Seth:

My wife is a saint for taking care of them, and it’s allowed me to keep my focus a little bit through all this.

Danny:

Yep, same exact thing. There’s only so many times you can say, “There’s a pack of dying squirrels outside my door. I’m sorry. That’s what’s going on.”

Seth:

Right?

Danny:

Anyways, so for those who aren’t familiar with LogistiVIEW, can you tell me a little bit about who you guys are and what you do?

Seth:

Yeah, so LogistiVIEW is a software company that has a software automation platform. We’re best known for our vision picking technology. That’s where we’ve had the most notoriety over the last couple years. We’ve been around for several years now; I started the company in 2014. And we specialize in human automation and robotic automation connected together. And, so, that is our focus point. We’re new to the industry by supply-chain standards anyway. We’ve been selling since about 2018, so we’re still fairly newcomers to the overall market.

Danny:

Oh, excellent. I’m excited to get into that a little bit more, get into the nuts and bolts of what you guys do and looking at challenges. But before that, I want to get to know you a little bit better. So tell me, how did you get into this space? Take me back.

Seth:

So, yeah, my history in warehouse management software, which is really where my focus has been, distribution technology, warehouse management, et cetera, goes all the way back to the very beginning of my career. My education is in computer engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. And when I was an intern there, I started working at a company that many folks in our industry remember, RedPrairie. And, so, RedPrairie was where I started my career. And over the course of time, obviously, RedPrairie became JDA and then became– now just recently became Blue Yonder. But I spent about 18 months there, then ended up going to work for one of– a RedPrairie customer, then have been in consulting for about the last 15 years. Having that experience, I also have another company called Accelogix which I founded in 2012. We are a systems-implementer and consulting firm that specializes in implementation of Blue Yonder WMS services and associated automation and technology solutions for warehouses. So LogistiVIEW came out of my experience in that field and some opportunities I saw for improvement.

Danny:

Excellent, well, yes. During that journey, was there somebody that had a big impact on you, a mentor or somebody that you’ve taken a lot of insights from?

Seth:

I would say I’ve had several mentors. In the early days, it was technical mentors who helped me develop my skills as a software engineer. And then over the course of time, I’ve had a number of folks who were pivotal in structuring my understanding of the business end of this business, both from the logistics side and from the technology and consulting perspective. I remember my first boss, or I should say my first boss at my second job after I left RedPrairie recruited me to the company and had a really, really cool approach where he gave me the ability to really get ingrained in, not just the nits and nats of a WMS but really understand the business as a whole and the IT operation as a whole. And that really had a profound impact on my future because it gave me the ability to think bigger-picture than just well, hey, this is a support issue on a WMS, or this is a small mod, but really understand the big picture from a, it was a public company, so I got to see the inner-workings of IT at a publicly-traded company and learn from that. It was a great experience there.

Danny:

That’s awesome. So obviously being an entrepreneur, starting a new company, a new venture, getting into something new has got its unique set of challenges. Walk me through your decision-making process to say, hey– I think you said you were in consulting and then– I want to go start this venture. What did that look like for you?

Seth:

Yeah, it was a bit of a process, one that most people would call me insane for. It actually started when I was 24, just on the tail-end of my role with the company I just mentioned, the video game distribution company. I had a couple of folks who were consulting for that company had started a company, a consulting firm themselves. I ended up joining that firm as the third partner and third employee at a very young age and with, obviously, a lot to learn, but some strong technical skills and the willingness to learn. That was an interesting process; over the next four and a half years, we built that up a little bit. And then for a number of reasons, primarily wanting to go different directions with my focus on LogistiVIEW and software development, in 2012 we went separate ways, and I started Accelogix and then later was able to start LogistiVIEW as Accelogix grew and was more successful. So the early part of that story is that I chose to go ahead and take that path after my wife had just gotten pregnant with our first daughter. I went to her, and I said, “I want to quit my job.”

Danny:

Good timing.

Seth:

Most people would have said, “You’re insane. Why would you do that now?” whatever. Like I said, she’s been a bit of a saint over the years, supporting me on this journey. She said, “Sure, why not? Go for it.” And it was a good decision.

Danny:

So what was that– those moments, though, I think comes to every entrepreneur that you go through that process. You think, okay, hey, I want to do this. Maybe I don’t– I should– here’s the pros and cons. But, and there’s a definitive moment where you say, “I’m doing this, and I’m setting my sights on this.” What was that moment for you?

Seth:

I think there– I’ve always had a bit of a drive from the very beginning. I always wanted to do something of my own, so to speak. And it wasn’t really about, necessarily, having this lightbulb where, all of a sudden, my mindset shifted. But rather, I had been seeking entrepreneurial opportunities, really, even in high school and college. I was always very curious about how I could go about starting a business or finding a market in which I could start a business. There’s all those challenges that you don’t understand when you don’t know what you don’t know. When the opportunity presented itself to join a couple other folks who were older than me and had a bit more experience than I did, I found that opportunity to be very compelling because it was an opportunity for me to, what I believed, was start with something that I could build, that I could truly have an impact on while not necessarily being the only person responsible for making it all happen. Again, that did end up working out fairly well in the long run, and it was a pretty easy decision when I had to make it.

Danny:

Awesome, awesome. So let’s move into some of the industry challenges and some things that you’re seeing in the space. Obviously, being in the technology space, digital transformation is, well, was a big deal, and now it’s– it was critical before, but now it’s even more critical. What are some of those challenges that you’re seeing right now?

Seth:

I think there’s, obviously, that the number one challenge we’re all facing is, I think, this overwhelming feeling like we don’t really know what’s coming next.

Danny:

Yeah.

Seth:

That’s an unsettling feeling for any company, but it’s particularly unsettling for logistics and supply chain because it’s an industry and a focus inside a company that’s focused entirely around predictability, around consistency, around quality, and you’re in a situation where you just don’t know what’s coming next. Where will the next demand come from? What will product development suddenly pop out of a hat because, you know what, the marketing team went and found that the market wants an entirely different thing for an entirely different reason. All of this changes, and it impacts my customers very directly. And that’s been the most substantial challenge over the last 90 to 120 days, certainly since the pandemic started taking hold of America. It’s about seeking ways to be flexible while still delivering at the level of service that you’re mandated to deliver at. That’s a complex thing, especially when you’ve built systems that are meant to work a certain way but maybe don’t fit the models so well anymore because of what’s changed.

Danny:

Yeah, no, absolutely. I think that the flexibility piece is key, but, then, also, you’re still held to that high standard from a deliverability standpoint.

Seth:

Well, and what’s worse now is that now it has to get cheaper, too. It’s like, “Hey, do it as cheaply as possible.” It’s like, “Well, you can’t get all three.”

Danny:

Well, the old trifecta, yeah. Better, faster, cheaper, right? “Now, make it two times as cheaper and three times as better.”

Seth:

Yeah, exactly.

Danny:

Exactly. And we need it tomorrow.

Seth:

Yesterday, actually.

Danny:

So if you were to take your crystal ball out, what are some of the future predictions that you’re seeing relative to how markets are shifting, maybe potentially other challenges that are popping up as we start coming out of what we’re coming out of, whenever we come out of it?

Seth:

Well, and I think that’s– part of the challenge is whenever we come out of it. That’s the part that we don’t know yet. There will be a new normal that appears. I’m not going to call it post-pandemic. Maybe a better term is pandemic-normalized. I don’t think we’re there yet. Things are still changing, like just this week things like the unemployment stimulus changing and various other stimulus packages expiring, and the reality that, whoa, wait a minute. We’re still in really rough shape. How does that play going forward? And, presumably, that’s going to last for another 6 to 12 months. I sincerely hope that normal comes, or the new normal comes a little sooner than that, but I’m preparing myself for that kind of change, and so are most of my customers. What they’re analyzing is, for example, what does Black Friday look like in 2020?

It’s a whole different world. What does that look like? What used to be a retail distribution rush is now going to become a massive e-commerce distribution rush. How many warehouses are prepared for that? How many systems are prepared for that? When you don’t have the retail shopping that you were going to have before in-store throughout the entirety of the busy season, can your e-commerce presence handle that? Those kinds of questions are profoundly relevant right now because it’ll mean life or death for brands that can’t get their products to consumers online.

Danny:

Yeah, exactly, that or even from a fulfillment and inventory standpoint. It’s like, from an inventory forecasting, what do I need to even have on hand? Is our sales, are we going to go through the roof? Or are we going to go down because, from an economic standpoint, are people going to buy the same amount they’re going to buy? So, yeah, to your point.

Seth:

The other thing we’re seeing, too, is disruptions farther back in the supply chain. So what you anticipated, what you forecasted, what you ordered may not show up. How do you handle that problem? All of those variations right now are forefront in the mind of most supply chain practitioners.

Danny:

Yeah, it’s also forefront in the mind, too, of consumers, as well. Even you look at the big, bad– or however you want to characterize that– but you look at Amazon and just all the shift on how, from– obviously, beforehand, everyone was, from a consumer standpoint, you were predisposed to saying, hey, I need to get my stuff in two days or less, maybe even an hour, depending on where you are. Now, it’s like the ability of being able to try to expedite some of that stuff is completely gone. Gosh darn it! So the dependability, it’s a whole, it’s a cluster.

Seth:

Absolutely. Well, it’s something that you wouldn’t have predicted. You take a look at how Amazon, particularly, has responded to the pandemic. I don’t think they’ve done a terrible job of executing, but they’ve had to prioritize.

Danny:

Yeah.

Seth:

And the prioritization has come at the cost of their third-party marketplace; it’s come at the cost of smaller vendors who relied on Amazon; and it’s come at the cost of their own team, to a certain degree just because COVID has impacted their facilities. Everything that you thought you knew about Amazon on March 13th, by April 13th had broken down. Two-day Prime, forget it.

Danny:

Yep, done.

Seth:

Next day, forget it. Not going to happen. And anything in the world that you want, you can get on Amazon in two days. Forget it. Not a chance. It’s all been completely turned around. And it’s something that, again, if you had said on– March 13th was the Friday after MODEX.

Danny:

Yeah.

Seth:

And it was the day we were all going home with the realization that, oh, my God, next week may be the biggest change in the history of the country, the virtual shut-down of a good chunk of our economy.

Danny:

And it was.

Seth:

And it was. And the impact of that was just completely unpredictable. And, certainly, no one would have expected Amazon’s supply chain to break. But if Amazon’s supply chain can break under those circumstances, what about everyone else’s?

Danny:

Exactly.

Seth:

That’s the thing that’s really been fascinating to watch and understand. A lot of our customers are in food and beverage and restaurant supply. The difference is, the grocers are off the charts—

Danny:

Yeah.

Seth:

But their demand is for products that they can’t even stock. They don’t have enough stock for them. So that’s been a challenge. Then, you’ve got the restaurant suppliers and the event suppliers and catering suppliers. They’ve got stuff just rotting in the warehouse. And they’re trying, obviously, to move it in different places, to be efficient with it and whatever. But this kind of disruption is unprecedented in history and, now, everybody has to respond by– and, sadly, this is the part that’s going to be hard to plan for– when will this happen again? Well, God, I hope never. But, at the same time, I don’t think your CEO is necessarily going to say, oh, well, COVID was a one-time thing. We don’t have to worry about that anymore. Now, you have to plan for it or, at least, be prepared for it, be prepared to react. That requires a technology investment in greater flexibility and more software orchestration and, really, less steel bolted to the floor as the solution. A lot of companies are just now beginning to plan that reaction process.

Danny:

Yeah, business continuity plans are going to be, yeah, the thing now. They were important before, but, obviously, very neglected, one of the– It’s a reactionary thing, so being a very reactive response. Let me ask you about, how are you guys really helping your customers or prospects to be able to get through this? What are things that you’re doing, your technology, are enabling customers and other companies to be able to do?

Seth:

So I think the number one thing that we’re trying to help our customers through, both on the consulting firm side and on the LogistiVIEW software side is helping to plan for disruptions or to plan through the disruptions, I should say. Especially in the first few weeks of this, our grocery customers were getting really pounded, heavily. They were experiencing unprecedented volumes. The was all the pandemic buying and everything. Getting them through that process and ensuring their systems were stable and the existing systems were in place to make all that work and running smoothly was a pretty big priority. And, so, we actually, for a while, we were offering free support for anybody who needed to call us because it was like, okay, if your system’s crashing, and you don’t have a plan in place already, we can help. And that was, thankfully, I think we’re past that now where folks now, are they’ve at least adopted, they’re adapted to the what I’ll call the pandemic normal. But now the question is, what do we do next?

And, so, for a lot of our customers, a lot of our customers are evaluating that. A lot of our prospects are evaluating that. And we’re trying to help them think differently, I think, is the best way to really describe it. How can I design systems from scratch? How can I design processes from scratch that are built around the ability to adapt to changing consumer behaviors, the ability to adapt to changing inventory availability or different SKU profiles and order profiles. All of that is changing and, depending on the company, it’s changing in very different ways. Some of our customers have been completely decimated by this, and their order volumes have dropped off to less than 20% of what they were before. Others have been relatively unimpacted, and still others are at record highs, like the grocers. Each of those requires a slightly different analysis process.

And, interestingly enough, the solution involves the same ingredients almost every, single time. You need to focus on flexibility. You need to focus on the business processes and channels that are likely to be active at any given point in time. Obviously, you don’t know for sure. And you need to optimize those channels to achieve whatever profitability you can out of them. Obviously, the answer might be that you can’t be profitable, but let’s optimize to try and lose less and prepare you to come back strong. Those are all difficult conversations to have in a lot of cases, but that’s what companies like us have to be helping our customers think through right now.

Danny:

Absolutely, yeah, and kudos to you guys for jumping in there. Who you’re talking about, offering the free support and really just, essentially, being really customer- focused, obsessed with being help– providing value and really jumping in there. My last question: We talked a lot about the pandemic and the doom and gloom and the bad things that have happened and the changes and whatever. What are the changes, what things have you learned through this that have been positive? What are some positive impacts that you have either experienced or that you foresee in the future?

Seth:

There’s actually a lot of positive impacts. As much as you talk about doom and gloom, I would argue that it’s not even doom and gloom. What the pandemic has done is, it’s reminded us that change is inevitable. And I think that’s a really good thing. I always find some folks are really, really obsessed with supply-chain planning, and I often laugh because the plan never really happens. In fact, a lot of times, it comes a long ways from happening because just stuff got disrupted. I think a lot of companies are now, and a lot of leaders are now asking themselves the question, “How can I be better prepared to respond?” rather than, “How can I have the perfect plan?” And I think that’s a good transition. Obviously, you don’t want to go into something with no plan; that would be foolhardy as well. But the idea that, “Hey, I can and I should design and build supply methodologies and distribution methodologies and technology methodologies that support the ability to respond to change.” That’s driving a technology shift in our industry that was already happening. It’s also driving behavioral changes in consumers.

Consumers were going online before; now, they’re going online way more. Distribution, particularly, has been heading towards or talking about autonomy and robotics and AI and intelligent orchestration for a number of years. And it seems like now there’s more need and more reason than ever for that technology to advance with purpose because there is a clear reason. We can’t just– it’s not going to be, we’re not going to be high on the hog forever. We had 10 years of really, really good economic conditions. It wasn’t a matter of if. It was only a matter of when. And, now, with a new breed of technology that really didn’t even exist 10 years ago, I think there’s a way to re-imagine distribution, particularly, in a new light. And that, I don’t think we want to deal with that pain because it’s certainly not fun. At the same time, I believe it’s going to make companies better on the back end of the pandemic.

Danny:

Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Seth, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. I could probably go on for a few more hours.

Seth:

Me too.

Danny:

But for those who’d like to learn more about you guys, so maybe your website? What is your website, actually? We’ll throw that out there.

Seth:

Absolutely, so if you want to learn more about us, certainly, you can search for me on LinkedIn or any other place. I’m pretty easy to find. Feel free to reach out. Love to chat with you. Also, check out our technology at logistiview.com. Then, if you’re looking for consulting services and/or want to work a little bit more with your WMS, then, definitely check out accelogix.com, A-C-C-E-L-O-G-I-X. We’d love to chat with anybody and, if nothing else, just share experiences because these are interesting times.

Danny:

Awesome. Well, Seth, again, thank you so much, and best of luck with the two ventures.

Seth:

Thanks, Danny, you too.

Danny:

Alright. Well, there you go. That wraps up today’s IndustrialSage Executive Series interview with Seth Patin, CEO and founder of LogistiVIEW.

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