The logistics demonstration and experience center

Gilbert Wellemans (Zetes): “Auto-ID and tracking as a basis for supply chain optimisation”

5 minutes reading time
Gilbert Wellemans Zetes

Since this month, Zetes has become one of Log!Ville’s Innovation Partners. The Belgian group is a top player in the field of automatic identification and data capture. Gilbert Wellemans, country manager for Belgium, explains how the company expanded its scope from its core business – product tracking – to a whole range of solutions aimed at optimising supply chain processes.

Can you briefly describe Zetes and its activities?

Zetes is a company specialising in automatic identification and data collection, particularly in the fields of traceability and supply chain optimisation. It was founded in 1984 – so 40 years ago this year – in Belgium and originally started with Auto-ID (automatic identification) solutions, such as barcodes and RFID technologies, to help companies improve their logistics processes.

In 1997, Zetes took its first steps abroad, notably in France, the Netherlands and Spain. Since then, with the’ Goods-ID’ division, we are active in 17 countries, providing end-to-end solutions including track & trace, logistics execution, handheld and mobile devices, product identification and authentication, and so on.

In 2000, the scope was expanded to People-ID with advanced identification, security and access control solutions such as e-ID, driving licences, passports, loyalty cards, cat and dog identification, and so on. We have customers all over the world, including in Africa, Israel and Japan.

Zetes went public in 2005 and was acquired by Japanese technology group Panasonic in 2017.

Do you supply hardware, software or both?

Both. We started with hardware, especially scanners for retail, but pretty soon we expanded the activity to software to develop proprietary solutions. In 2016 Zetes moved its software engineering activities into ‘software factories’ in Barcelona and Madrid to accelerate this development. So we develop hardware and software and also operate as integrators.

You can divide our solutions into six main areas:

  • Manufacturing, with Smart Factory to manage receiving, tracking, and picking of products in the manufacturing industry);
  • Logistics with ZetesMedea for optimising warehousing processes;
  • Delivery with ZetesChronos, a proof of delivery software and real-time tracking of goods and vehicles;
  • Packaging with ZetesAtlas, a suite of solutions for identification, serialisation, and aggregation of packaging including for pharma and tobacco products;
  • Supply chain visibility with ZetesZeus, software for product tracking & tracing and visibility throughout the supply chain, both upstream and downstream;
  • In-store execution with ZetesAthena, software for in-store stock management, click & collect, and task management in retail.

A whole range of products, in other words. Can you pick out two that are relevant to the Log!Ville community?

Actually, they are all relevant to the community, but I will pick out two.

At first there is ZetesMedea, a Warehouse Execution System (WES) that helps companies optimise warehouse and logistics processes. It offers functionalities such as inventory management, order processing and picking, support for cross-docking, traceability and more. This includes hardware such as voice-picking, PDAs, pick & put-to-light and now increasingly smart glasses or autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). 

In fact, this autumn we are launching an AMR that can not only transport goods or pallets from A to B, but also goes a step further: it will be a kind of collaborative robot deployed for picking applications. Not that the robot will pick itself, but it will follow the operator. When the pallet is complete, the robot will autonomously leave for the shipping quay and a new one will arrive for the next picking tasks, so that the operator loses as little time as possible. Within that new concept, we are collaborating with Optioryx, a Ghent startup launched in 2022. Thanks to AI, boxes on a pallet are stacked more efficiently – the heaviest at the bottom, for example – and more compactly. With this AMR and the AI-driven picking process, we will make order picking 25-50% more optimized.

ZetesMedea is conceived as a modular concept. The package always serves as a base, but the applications are mostly ‘custom-made’. It is therefore a scalable solution that can be adapted to specific needs. Incidentally, it can interface with a WMS and also be integrated with other business systems such as an ERP, TMS or MES (Manufacturing Execution System).

Partner in de kijker illustratie in artikel zetesmedea

What is the second solution you want to highlight?

ZetesChronos was launched some 20 years ago as a simple solution for proof-of-delivery (POD) and track & trace, but it has since evolved into a more sophisticated solution. It uses mobile technologies (PDAs, tablets, ‘bring your own device’) and data capture to ensure real-time visibility and manage the entire last-mile delivery chain, from the moment of shipment to final delivery to the customer. This software also allows the driver to choose the optimal route according to the parcels and transmit an accurate ETA (Expected Time of Arrival).

Numerous parcel and distribution companies – very large as well as smaller ones – use ZetesChronos today.

With a wide range of solutions, you have a good view of the market. Is there a trend you notice?

What strikes me is the comeback of RFID technology. Recently, there has clearly been more interest in it again. RFID is back on the scene. This has to do with the fact that, partly due to staff shortages, people want to automate increasingly more. RFID tags, for example, allow scanning to be avoided, making it easier to deploy robots to build and transport pallets. They can also, for example, ‘trigger’ cameras to take pictures of a box or pallet, before shipping. They can also be efficiently used for ‘dock door’ control to make sure the right pallet is loaded into the right truck or container. We certainly see this trend in the retail and groupage sectors.

Why did Zetes become a Log!Ville partner?

Mainly because of the visibility and the opportunity to highlight trends. Zetes takes part in logistics expo’s, but they are time-consuming and expensive, and visibility is not always optimal. We have seen Log!Ville evolve very positively over the past two years, both in terms of the solutions shown and the events, which are very informative. It is therefore an innovative environment that is ideal for showcasing our range of products and for organising content-relevant events ourselves. We plan to do this monthly around a theme: Medea, Chronos, Atlas, connectivity within the warehouse, and so on. These events aimed at customers and potential customers will be small-scale, with a maximum of 25 to 30 participants.

On top of that, we have a wide range of solutions and, thanks to Log!Ville, we can better present ourselves as a one-stop shop.

What advice would you give to further improve Log!Ville?

Keep Log!Ville ‘sexy’ for visitors. It is a good concept and the combination demonstration and meeting centre is excellent. There is a lot to discover here, from startups to big technology providers. Maybe it should attract a bit more bigger partners.