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Haitham Al-Beik: How to Automate Cannabis Retail

Removing the biggest pain points in cannabis retail with automation.

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This week, Haitham Al-Beik, CEO and founder of Wings, joins the Cannabis Equipment News podcast to discuss his efforts to remove the biggest pain points in cannabis retail with automation. 

According to Haitham Al-Beik, cannabis retail businesses suffer from many of the same challenges plaguing companies across the nation — most notably, labor shortages and operational inefficiency. 

His new company, Wings, based in Littleton, Massachusetts, has created an autonomous, sustainable retail system that can be customized to fit any location to solve these issues. 

The company was developing an automated delivery system for pickup/carryout orders at its R&D lab in Littleton when Al-Beik was approached by David Giannetta, the CEO and founder of Collective Cannabis

Giannetta understood Al-Beik's vision for streamlining the retail experience, and Al-Beik saw a significant opportunity to transform the cannabis retail experience. 

The Wings team dove into the logistics of the cannabis retail industry and the people involved in the customer experience. Before creating a solution, they needed to understand the ecosystem of budtenders, customers, runners and assembly people. 

The biggest pain point in logistical operations is customer service, because it is highly dynamic. Customers come in at any time with highly customized orders. Workers prepare each order in a backroom or vault, and orders are then run out to the budtenders, who serve the customer. 

Al-Beik wanted to create an automation system that wasn't borrowed from manufacturing or other industries. He sought a system that need a minimum — if any — amount of space, because floor space is such a premium in retail locations. He also wanted to be sure to keep the product secure. 

The Wings system is fairly straightforward. As orders come in, assembly staff prepares each order and places it into a module or shuttle. The shuttle is placed into a secure container that holds up to 35 orders at a time. When the customer arrives, a track system carries the module to the budtender, who hands the product to the client. The system can also be set up for secure contactless pickup. While each system only holds 35 orders, they can be stacked. For example, Collective Cannabis ordered three and plans to debut the system at its new retail space in Littleton this year. 

The EXO Delivery System is customizable; as Al-Beik says, every cannabis space is like a snowflake: every layout is different. 

The system is built to be versatile and could have a future beyond cannabis, serving the greater retail space. 

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