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Mon, 16 May 2022

Atoptima: Startup of the month by SCM Startups

In this interview realized by Markus Börner for Supply Chain Management Startups, Adrien Duruisseau (Co-founder & COO) introduces Atoptima, an optimization software editor automating decision-making for operations planning problems.

Adrien, could you please give us a brief description of Atoptima?

A.D.: « Atoptima is an optimization software editor tackling operations planning challenges, such as tasks scheduling, workload balancing, and vehicle routing optimization. Thanks to a cutting-edge software library, our DeepTech provides tailored application solvers handling the most complex variants of operations planning problems. Our cloud-based optimization engines can be easily embedded into any information system to provide decision support features and significantly improve operational performance. » 

That sounds exciting and also technologically challenging and complex. What is the background story of the company? When and how was Atoptima born?

A.D.: « Atoptima is a spin-off of a joint research team at Inria (the National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology) and CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research). Atoptima was launched in 2019 to handle the real-life complexity of problems with top notch technologies.

Through industrial collaborations in various business areas, our research work has always been challenged by real-world problems ranging from production planning and manufacturing to telecom network design and logistics. We observed the gap between what academic research can deliver and what is currently in use in the industry.

Many use cases remain without a solution for lack of appropriate technological tools; and many resources are wasted in the process. Thus, the decision to create our startup was both market-driven and responding to a societal motivation to do more and better, while consuming less resources. What a great satisfaction to make our 25 years of research and know-how useful for society! »

Who are the people behind Atoptima? Tell us about yourself and your co-founders.

A.D.: « The kick-off for launching this great challenge of industrializing a complex technology was to gather highly motivated and brilliant teammates from our research group as co-founders and me as an external co-founder with business expertise:

François Vanderbeck is CEO & Chief Scientific Officer, he has been leading Operations Research projects for 25 years, publishing pioneering papers in major international journals and conferences. He graduated from the MIT and holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Louvain. He was Lecturer at the University of Cambridge and later founded the research team in Combinatorial Optimization at Inria Bordeaux, which he headed for 12 years.

Vitor Nesello (CTO) and Guillaume Marques (CPO) come from the same research team and have outstanding skills in both mathematical optimization and computer science.

I joined the founding team as COO to bring my business skills and background experience in e-commerce and supply chain as a former project manager at Amazon and Cdiscount.»

Okay, let’s dive a little deeper into the details of your solution. Which specific problems do you solve for your customers?

A.D.: « Many companies have climbed the « technological ladder » by digitalizing their processes in operations planning, either internally or relying on XMS (TMS, WMS, OMS,…). But automation of decision-making lacks in these XMS and operations planning is still very complex, time-consuming, and — above all — suboptimal (both economically and operationally).

Indeed, automating operations planning is highly complex and is hindered by a technological barrier, not only to model the right feature, but also to efficiently implement the software module to get short response time on large-scale exponentially complex problems.

Atoptima takes decision-making to the next step, leveraging prescriptive analytics and cutting-edge mathematical optimization technologies. We enhance existing management systems with decision support features thanks to tailored cloud-based optimization modules. »

How would you describe your USP there?

A.D.: « Atoptima tackles the most complex operations planning problems with unmatched performance and very responsive delivery time.

Thanks to our deep know-how in mathematical modeling and our state-of-the art optimization techniques and methodologies encapsulated into our software library, we are able to handle any specific constraints and account for nested decisions dependent on each other. For example, we would optimize in synergies vehicle routing and inventory management, or order batching and their picking in the warehouse, or delivery and reverse logistics. This systemic optimization provides the best productivity gains, around 20 to 30%.

Last but not least, this DeepTech is made accessible with easy-to-use cloud-based software modules and friendly user interfaces. »

Who are your target customers then? What would be ideal potential customers to target?

A.D.: « We are focusing on the supply chain, logistics, on-site services, and manufacturing industries.

Our target customers are the ones who seek to automate and to optimize decision-making processes within their software product or in their information system. Our ICP would be either a management system software editor or an end-user dealing with a significant operations planning problem.

The Boston Consulting Group, EDF, and Groupe Sterne are some of the users of our technologies. »

What kind of ROI can your customers expect with such a systemic approach? Can you elaborate a little on one or two example cases?

A.D.: « Let me present 2 use cases to illustrate how systemic optimization is a game-changing approach.

For a leading international freight specialist (carrier and freight forwarder), with 2 000 daily routes and 75 000 pickups and deliveries that had to deal with a multi-echelon distribution network and reverse logistics, we provided a decision support tool optimizing in synergies conveyance routes and delivery routes. Outcome: global costs cut by 30%, solution computed in 30 sec, App set up in 2 weeks.

For the French leader of e-commerce, with a catalog of 40 million products and 100 000 orders daily that had to deal with reactive on-demand picking whereby orders are individually assigned to pickers, we provided an application to enhance their WMS which outputs missions to pickers optimizing both the batch of orders that they receive and their route in synergy. Outcome: Preparation time plummeted by 20% while inducing a better quality of work for pickers (less travel distance and fair repartition of the workload). »

What are the challenges you face when dealing with the existing IT and data infrastructure at your clients? What do you usually need from their side and how do you work with them?

A.D.: « We don’t need much data: only the tasks that need to be done, and the resources available to complete them.

The optimization module is either directly accessible via our online user interface, or by interfacing with our client’s system via APIs.

In preparation of this, we talked about Atoptima’s impact on greener supply chains with less co2 emissions. Give us your thoughts on that – what do you think can be achieved with a solution like yours.

There is an urgent need to « do more and better, while consuming less ». Sustainability lies at the core of all Atoptima’s projects as our optimization technologies are specifically designed to improve the use of existing resources by assigning them intelligently. We are therefore providing to our customers advanced tools to mitigate waste of resources while improving their productivity.

A concrete example is our current project supported by the ADEME (the French agency for ecological transition) optimizing an urban logistic system with multimodal transportation (barge + cargo-bikes) and handling waste in a reverse logistic mode. »

Thank you, Adrien, for all the great insights into a great technology driven company. Anything else you want to tell our readers at the end of our interview? Recent achievements you’re especially proud of?

A.D.: « Atoptima is the winner of the i-Lab 2021 Innovation Prize, a national competition which supports the best value-creating technologies from DeepTech startups. We are hiring, you can check offers at: https://atoptima.com/jobs/ »

*Source : Startup of the month, SCM Startups

Updated Mon, 06 Feb 2023.