10/02/2018 |

A weighty argument. How a Russian start-up has mastered advanced warehouse technologies

Sklad

Russian developers have created “smart” warehouse scales – they automatically know how to determine the dimensions of any cargo, which is usually measured manually. For a year, the startup brought 20 million rubles proceeds.

“We needed to either invest our money, which was not, or sell the non-existent scales, and then try to build something on this,” recalls the 27-year-old Grigory Bocharov, the founder of the company for the production of “smart” warehouse weights InSize.

The crisis has inflated prices for foreign warehouse scales, so Russian developers decided to create a cheaper analog. We started with the sale of “air” – showed customers 3D-mock-ups, and prepaid for the creation of a prototype. The team survived the fire and lack of money, but in the end created a scales that can determine the size of oversized cargo.

The startup has brought 20 million rubles. revenue and raised 2.8 million rubles. investments from the FRI and from the DI-Group fund in 2017, and in early 2018 discovered a new, more ambitious niche.

Sprint Engineer

Grigory Bocharov is from Volgograd. At the third semester of training in the local branch of the Moscow Power Institute he was able to transfer to the capital. Bocharov was a prize-winner of the Russian track-and-field championship, he was recognized by the head of the faculty of physical culture and invited to the team – he brought the institute silver and bronze in the student championship among technical universities in Paris.

In the capital, Bocharov studied the automation of process control systems. After the bachelor’s degree, he became a service engineer in the Russian branch of the German company SICK, which is engaged in the automation of production, logistics and technological processes.

In 2014, the chief Bocharova went to the company, which also deals with the automation of production, and called him with him. Bocharov became the head of the direction of automation of logistics and learned about systems of weighty characteristics – “smart” scales that can determine not only the weight, but also the length, width and height of goods and goods. They were in demand among advanced customers. Multifunctional scales imported from abroad: American Cubiscan and Canadian ExpressCube. They sold $ 10 thousand each.

Six months later, there was a financial crisis, prices for scales soared, demand fell. “Customers began to wonder whether they needed this thing or easier to measure with a ruler,” Bocharov recalls. In early 2015, the leadership allocated money to create an analogue of foreign weights. The development was led by Bocharov, he hired engineers for outsourcing, who offered several drawings. According to him, the money was enough only to create a brochure and a 3D model of the scales. With this Bocharov and went to the market.

The first to believe in the idea was the footwear company Rendez-Vous and paid $ 5,000 in advance. This money went into production. The contractor, 30-year-old engineer Ivan Vinokurov, Bocharov found on the Internet at a thematic forum where he shared his inventions. The prototype of the scales Vinokurov collected in the garage in his spare time from the main work in the company for the supply of equipment for energy.

From the first time nothing happened, according to Bocharov, something was constantly breaking down in the system, the equipment had to be re-made several times. The creation of a working prototype took three months. To improve the model, you had more money, so Bocharov armed with mock-ups and went to look for new customers. On the proceeds from pre-orders money, he managed to build an assembly of “smart” weights, not inferior to the functional foreign, but costing twice as cheap. For a year, he found 50 buyers, including Magnit, MTS, FM Logistic, and others.

Adventure and fire

In 2016, Bocharov “burned out” – so tired of work, that he decided to quit and find a salary easier. But it turned out differently: one of the old buyers from the logistics company BiocardLogistics turned to him and asked for help in automation of logistics. Bocharov realized that without additional devices you can not do it: you needed several “smart” scales and a sorting conveyor. He conferred with Ivan Vinokurov and invited the customer to build a turnkey package for $ 100 thousand. So in early 2017 appeared the company InSize, where Bocharov took the role of general director, and Vinokurov – technical.

At the start, entrepreneurs encountered the usual difficulties: it was necessary to do everything from scratch, the old work remained with the employer. $ 100 thousand to develop a new prototype should have been enough, but then burned one of the two shops rented by partners – they forgot to turn off the electric stove. Entrepreneurs estimated losses of 2 million rubles.

Delivery time of the finished sample was on the verge of failure. Partners had to shovel the rubble, buy equipment and repair the building. The roof, for example, Bocharov and Vinokurov repaired themselves. When the repair was completed, $ 100 thousand from BiocardLogistics ended, and the balance was not yet ready. Bocharov went the tried and tested way – he sold a batch of four nonexistent scales at $ 5 thousand to a subsidiary of the online store Ozon. With this money partners hired engineers and assemblers, expanded the production team to seven people and began to finish the first order.

The creation of a working model for BiocardLogistics took six months instead of the planned three months. On the InSize scales, ultrasonic sensors and cameras that use “machine vision” and neural networks are responsible for determining the dimensions. This allows you to work more accurately and quickly. The cargo data is immediately digitized and falls into the ERP-system (software for resource management) of the customer company, which helps to calculate the loading of the warehouse and optimize the truck’s route.

According to InSize calculations, automation helps to increase warehouse loading and goods shipment speed by 15%. For example, one of the customers of InSize, having received the exact characteristics of the boxes, moved from pallet storage to cellular storage, as a result of which the warehouse occupancy increased by 30%. Transport began to be ordered taking into account the forecasted sizes, which reduced the shipment time by half.

Spaceship

The partners overdid it – they put in excess functionality. Bocharov said he wanted to build a “spaceship” in logistics, but the market did not need all the functions. Excess was, for example, the launch of scales on a fingerprint – in warehouses, workers wear gloves, and to remove them each time is inconvenient. I had to redo the drawings.

While being dealt with the redesign, again were without money. According to Bocharov, the partners pursued a “compulsive sense of imminent death”. The project was accelerated by the FRI accelerator, to which the partners got into the fall of 2017. InSize received 2.1 million rubles. in exchange for 7% of the company from the FREI and 700 thousand rubles. for 2% of the company from the fund DI-Group.

It’s not just about money. According to Bocharov, the accelerator helped them not to focus on improving the product, but to build on the demands of the market. The developers simplified the flagship model of the scales, removed all unnecessary and at the same time developed a new model of weights that know how to determine the dimensions of transparent objects and objects of arbitrary shape. “It’s important for logisticians to measure boxes, but for example, an online store may need to measure markers, a glass, and so on,” Bocharov explains. According to the entrepreneur, there are only five companies all over the world that produce such equipment, the industry leader is Cubiscan.

In parallel, Bocharov started to form a sales department to again not be in a financial pit. But here it also failed – for 2.5 months the entrepreneur hired five managers, but no one stayed longer than a month – sales did not go. The case helped: one of the teams, which at the same time was studying in the accelerator, disintegrated. Bocharov lured the 26-year-old economist Sergei Tsymbarevich, who became one of the co-founders and started selling. In his native Minsk, he left the design studio Dexme, the average check for the creation of a site or application in which reaches $ 30 thousand. “I worked in general in another market. And here warehouses, distributors – I learned so many new words. I began to understand and understood that this is what I lack. I want to make an iPhone among the weights, “Tsymbarevich said.

Not a product, but a service

“Our business resembles a” swing “, when total happiness is replaced by complete despondency from impotence, that our expectations once again were just dreams,” Bocharov said. The company’s revenue for 2017 was 20 million rubles, but no profit – all revenues went to the production and development of models. Demand is unstable, and the market for “smart” weights is small – entrepreneurs estimate its volume in Russia at just 124 million rubles. in year. “We needed to come up with something that customers would pay for some action, not for the goods,” Tsymbarevich recalls.

Before the new, 2018 year, Bocharov accidentally stumbled upon the statement of the Minister of Industry Denis Manturov about creating a catalog of consumer goods in Russia. The idea was to digitize data on all goods in the country: dimensional characteristics, description, name, etc. According to the idea, it will make life easier for producers and sellers – the first will know how much space the goods take during transportation and storage, the second – on the shelf. Now sellers usually request this information from each manufacturer separately.

Founders of InSize decided to work on the lead and become a layer between sellers and manufacturers in the status of an independent laboratory, which will take measurements. “Everything that concerns the digitization of reality is the future,” Tsymbarevich is convinced. The partners interviewed ten directors of major retailers and came to the conclusion that there is a demand for measurements.

Bocharov estimated that 22 million products are delivered to the retail market annually. At an average market rate of 500 rubles. to measure the dimensions in three dimensions, the volume of the potential market will be 11 billion rubles. in year. And the catalog needs to be updated – new product categories are constantly appearing. There are still few competitors on the market – only four laboratories, one of which, Corus, buys scales from InSize – so there is a chance to break out into the leaders.

“We can make scales that will simultaneously measure the goods and photograph it according to certain rules. And more with the help of the neural network to determine the text of the label and immediately digitize the data, “Tsymbarevich plans. The company is negotiating the first order for the digitization of products with a large trading network, the amount of work is estimated at 7.2 million rubles.

Author: Ilmira Gaisina.

Original in Russian: RBC Daily

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