The proliferation of E-commerce has reshaped the world with double digit growth annually for the past 2 decades and there is no sign of slowing down. The very clear by-product of this, is the rapid growth of the warehousing industry. Globally warehousing has grown 7 to 8% year-over-year.
New facilities are popping up overnight in logistical hot zones over the planet and they are massive, not just in footprints but vertically with ceilings reading over 50 feet tall. This Mega growth has led to labor shortage. The process of tracking inventory hasn’t changed for the last 100s of years. It has been basically putting humans in charge of it, hoping that with the labor and manpower available, the required coverage and frequency will be achieved in due time.
Stock taking is a slow and labor intensive process leading to high manpower cost, operational downtime, and loss of profit due to stock ageing, stock obsolescence and even pilferage. Workers have to climb heights to take stock thereby increasing occupational, health and safety risk, as a result of this millions of dollars are lost per year.
Is there a solution?
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones).
They operate in 3 phases.
- Data Collection Phase: The drone flies autonomously in the warehouse and captures all the imagery in the assigned location.
- Data Processing Phase: Once the drone finishes flying, it returns home to its nest, where it starts uploading data straight to the software cloud, where processing takes place, as well as the extraction of insights needed by the customer.
- Report Delivery: All the insights extracted are directly delivered to the customer.
Counting stocks and having the right stock levels are important because they support productivity, the supply chain of the customers and the predictability of deliveries. Drones can operate autonomously at night, they are equipped with cameras and readers, enabling them to read bar codes, QR codes, text, and RFID Tags. They can scan a whopping 10,000 lbs a day and operate for up to 4 hours on a single charge, they can be used to detect if pallets positions are empty/occupied, giving real time inventory data avoiding manual count. It is a fully autonomous operation which is controlled by a software.
Automated scans helps to minimize disruptions, saving more than 50% of the time required to collect inventory. It can be operated without human intervention. In inventory, discrepancy reports are generated by comparing the real time data with the WMS data.
With the use of drones the warehouse suddenly gain super competitive edge, 20 times faster than manual stock taking, improved safety, reduced operational downtime, increased stock accuracy through automated reporting. This system is now being implemented in many warehouses.