Visions of Visibility: Antares Vision Enacts Next Stage of Supply Chain Strategy

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By Tancred Taylor | 1Q 2022 | IN-6462

In which Antares Vision demonstrates a long-term strategy towards becoming a supply chain visibility leader.

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Antares Vision Begins to Loom Big in Supply Chain

NEWS


Over the past two years, a number of announcements from the Antares Vision Group have demonstrated a clear developing vision for how it plans to address the growing supply chain visibility market. Traditionally, Antares Vision has been a supplier of inspection systems to guarantee product quality on the production line as well as of L1-L3 serialization hardware and software, effectively enabling the implementation of on-site and in-line serialization solutions, primarily targeted at the pharmaceutical industry. Since 2015, the company has sought to expand the range of its offerings to reinvent itself as an end-to-end supply chain track and trace vendor. In other words, not only producing digital identities for products but enabling a number of applications that can bring benefits across the entire supply chain. As such, the company built out its proprietary ATSFOUR solution, enabling it to operate at L4 and facilitating integration with third-party L5 vendors.

Eventually, Antares Vision moved into a second phase to build out this product line by engaging in a string of acquisitions to build out their internal strengths, leveraging both fledgling and more mature specialist software companies. With an influx of capital funds, the company has been on a rapid string of acquisitions since 2020. This started in April 2020 with the purchase of an 82.83% (€1.256 million) stake of Tradeticity, designed to strengthen Antares Vision’s strengths in serialization for the pharmaceutical market. Later that year, in November 2020, Antares Vision initiated the purchase of Adents for €1.5 million, a software provider with strengths in L4 for the pharmaceutical industry which was undergoing liquidation at the time; the acquisition was completed in February 2021.

From these small acquisitions, Antares Vision then moved to its major purchase of the past year, namely rfXcel for US$120 million in February 2021. rfXcel is a specialist L4-L5 software provider which integrates downstream with L1-L3 providers; the company specializes in providing track and trace software leveraging serial code information, primarily for the pharmaceutical industry but with a strategic view to moving into the higher TAM market of food/beverage. rfXcel states that its aim is to provide value beyond regulatory compliance, in other words, leveraging initial implementations of limited scope (e.g., serialization to meet DSCSA requirements) and transforming them into Return on Investment (ROI)-generating activities. The acquisition allowed Antares Vision to move into enabling broad supply chain use-cases, from inventory management to traceability throughout an enterprise’s supply chain. Antares Vision then, in October 2021, partnered with Mobilogix, a leading Internet of Things (IoT) hardware manufacturer, enabling it to better incorporate real-time IoT data at the aggregation level (e.g., pallet, crate). While IoT hardware agnostic, the partnership facilitates go-to-market and enables cross-sell opportunities between the two vendors. rfXcel’s rIM (rfXcel Integrated Monitoring) offering highlights how it sees the visibility market developing with “monitor at a top-level, and track at an item-level”, or in other words enabling aggregation and disaggregation between real-time IoT devices and the product being transported. Finally (to the present date), in February 2022, Antares Vision announced the acquisition of ACSIS Inc., a leading software provider for Returnable Transport Packaging (RTP) management. The acquisition highlights the importance in the supply chain not only of tracking and tracing products, but also tracking and tracing assets.

An Edgy Move

IMPACT


ABI Research recently wrote about a similar partnership as that between Antares Vision and Mobilogix, namely the partnership between Kezzler and Arviem. However, while that partnership is an important one for bringing disparate threads of the supply chain visibility ecosystem together, it is considerably less far-reaching and less part of a wide-ranging and concerted strategy to reinvent oneself as an end-to-end supply chain visibility player. Antares Vision’s strengths from the production line all the way to the enterprise-level software and applications put it in a leading position for offering end-to-end supply chain visibility.

Other large hardware companies are also looking at how they might best achieve this, with Körber and Panasonic as two important examples. Panasonic’s acquisition last year of Blue Yonder shows its desire to own what will fundamentally be the final repository of supply chain data—namely the supply chain control tower. What Panasonic has not done, however, is work out how enterprises want to purchase all the different types of hardware and software below the control tower level. While the control tower will be of great importance for coordinating supply chain activities, there is significant fragmentation below this level with a vast number of (largely small) hardware and software vendors offering specialized solutions for a part of the visibility market. The last couple of years have seen supply chain visibility move towards becoming a mainstream requirement, and some consolidation as a result has been seen there. The likes of FourKites and project44 are particularly active examples. But no vendor in the supply chain visibility market currently has an offering for fully connecting every aspect of an enterprise supply chain at the edge. Control tower offerings enable enterprises to integrate different solutions into a single-pane view, but no vendor can offer all the hardware or software platforms and applications that enable the supply chain to function at a more granular level. This, then, is the goal for which Antares Vision appears to be striving.

These moves by Antares Vision also highlight a clear growth strategy into new markets. Geographically, the company’s activities largely focus on Europe, which accounted for nearly 70% of the company’s revenues in 2020. However, the Americas are its fastest-growing market, accounting for under 15% of its revenues in 2019 but 25% of revenues in First Half 2021 (latest data available). Industry-wise, the company’s focus has so far squarely been around the pharmaceutical market. In 2020, its track and trace revenues in the Life Sciences market stood at €57.1 million, with only just over €1.1 million in ‘Extra Life Sciences’ areas. However, it sees the food and beverage market as an important ‘strategic market’. Antares Vision has launched a number of initiatives in this area focusing initially on alcohol and beverages, but with enormous potential opportunities in the food market as well. After growing organically, followed by a string of acquisitions, this is the third phase of Antares Vision’s three-part strategy, which ABI Research expects to see evolve in the coming one to two years: leverage software and use-case strengths for cross-sell into other industries. ACSIS Inc. operates horizontally across markets, but sees the market for crate and tote tracking in the food and beverage market as an opportunity on the verge of large growth, and is seeing large customers making moves to scale solutions. The acquisition of rfXcel and ACSIS as such give Antares Vision a strong leaping point from which to operate in that market—and others beyond.

Adapt, Evolve, Overcome

RECOMMENDATIONS


Antares Vision’s strategy shows a clear and logical progression, working out what is needed for an enterprise to connect their entire supply chain at the edge. These recent moves give it an increasingly persuasive offering, and sets them on track to become a supply chain visibility leader. Several pieces are still missing in the puzzle before that happens, however: Antares Vision should diversify to new markets; it should increase its presence in the APAC region, a high-growth region for visibility technology; and it should consider what other parts of the edge it can connect and cross-sell with its current track and trace portfolio. Supply chain visibility leaders will not be specialists purely in one type of tracking, as they will have the ability to track at the product, aggregation, and vehicle level, with aggregation and disaggregation between each part of these, and preferably with coordination between an enterprise and its trading partners. From there, further opportunities for growth will present themselves, in the form of supply chain automation, where Körber currently is strong, and in the form of control tower functionalities. However, figuring out the edge piece in the market, fragmented as it is today, is a pre-requisite.

The company’s activities described above show a persuasive example of how to build out an end-to-end supply chain visibility offering, a Holy Grail in today’s market as investment pours into the sector and as companies look to scale adoption. Strategies for becoming a supply chain leader are not single-faceted; they require a thorough understanding of how the supply chain visibility ecosystem will develop, as well as an understanding of new vendors and offerings in a fast-expanding technology sector. It is to this end that ABI Research has conducted in-depth research into individual markets to understand the total market opportunity in each, to understand the ecosystems serving each market, and to provide a view into how the supply chain visibility market will evolve in the coming five to ten years. A detailed assessment of the pharmaceutical opportunity is currently available, with a further assessment of the food and beverage industry coming shortly.

 

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