When a person envisions drones within the supply chain their first thought often goes to fleets of drones cruising the skies dropping off deliveries with impossibly short lead times, but there are other ways that drones can be implemented into the supply chain. Using drones in the warehouse can aid in improving your bottom line and expedite a lot of processes within your warehouse.
- Drones enhance the frequency of audits, automation, safety, and inventory accuracy.
- Drones can help warehouse teams by automating repetitive and labour-intensive tasks.
- Following best practices can help avoid potential obstacles around implementation.
Automate Tedious Inventory Management Processes
Inventory audits, taking stock, and cycle counts can take an unfortunate amount of time and man-hours. These processes often are done outside of regular working hours, leading to costly overtime, and workforce exhaustion. Inventory processes using drones can be done outside business hours and on weekends, and it also reduces the required manpower to a minimum. The drones used for this job are decked out with high-res cameras and cutting-edge scan technologies enabling detailed stocktaking. While in flight, a drone takes 30 pictures per second depending on the onboard camera and automatically sorts all articles on the shelves. The pictures are then automatically analyzed and current stock levels and storage errors are immediately reported.
The Benefits of Using Drones in Your Warehouse
There are many ways that adopting drones and automation can benefit your business. Overall, they can reduce the need for manual labor, and allow you to carry out counts more frequently, safely, and accurately.
The ability to have additional or more regular cycle counts and inventory audits greatly improves inventory accuracy, visibility, and reduces inventory errors. Removing the need for manual labor from these tasks allows it to be allocated more efficiently.
The automation aspect of drones means that only manual control needs to be taken in emergency situations. The benefit of this is that very little additional training and certification is required to implement drones into your warehouse management.
Pilots operate the drone remotely or just within visibility of the unit. This leads to there being no direct activity of people in the working area. This boosts safety in the workplace.
One of the main reasons for drones being considered is due to their impeccable accuracy. When factoring in the nature of warehousing, and human error, FlytBase calculates drone accuracy to be as high as 97% to 99% .
Drawbacks to Stay Aware Of
When implementing new technology, like drones, in your warehouse, it’s important to stay aware of potential drawbacks. When you’re aware of these potential obstacles, you can follow best practice and take steps to avoid them.
Finding a technology partner for a new system can be difficult, ensuring your WMS, or Warehouse Management System is compatible with your drone fleet is paramount.
Boxes are often different sizes, labels are usually not uniformly spread or placed, and labels can be dirty or damaged. This can hinder some scanning technology. However, newer technologies implement AI programs that can tackle these challenges by filling in the blanks.
Current drone technology restricts the type of storage that can be used, if the drone is looking for a specific item it can only scan or see the front face, so only single deep shelving can be effectively used right now.
If your storage and goods are disorganized, they can cause issues for your drone fleet as well. Protocols need to be maintained, specifically when it comes to facing labels, otherwise, the drones are not able to capture SKUs which will lead to errors and inaccuracies.
Current battery technology creates constraints on flight times. If the warehouse area is larger, then charging intervals will be needed, or more drones will be required.
Best Practices for Drone Implementation
Drones can be a great implementation to optimize your warehouse, but what are some of the best steps to take when putting the drones to work?
Here's what we recommend:
- You can minimize startup costs by comprising your drone fleet of basic off-the-shelf drones with docking stations.
- Ensure your staff is trained to use the drones in a supervisory role. Your drones should be powered autonomously and your staff should know that the drones are there to improve efficiency and not be extra labour.
- Your drone software or hardware should have anti-collision protocols employed to avoid any costly crashes.
- An important feature to have in your drone hardware is a high-quality image-capture system in order to create a detailed view of your warehouse and stock.
- Involve a comprehensive set of stakeholders, like in-house R&D teams to prioritize use cases and research. With any new technology, there can be clear lapses in documentation and studies, leaving room for you to create your own, and by being on the cutting edge of use cases builds brand identity and credibility.
How Routeique Can Integrate With A Number of Technologies
Routeique stays on the cutting edge of supply chain technology, and we’re always thinking about how our supply chain solutions fit into the future of the industry.
The Routeique WMS, or Warehouse Management Software, ensures that your inventory information is accurate. It does this by tracking your inventory as it leaves and enters your warehouse and updates your inventory levels after cycle counts and inventory taking. Routeique WMS can integrate with a number of technologies, which can help to update your automated inventory and cycle counts in real-time.
Larger drones have been considered for picking and packing orders. The Routeique DMS “routes” pickers to have the most efficient picking in your warehouse. Potential for integrations between the DMS and pick drones could exist to have an automated and perfectly efficient picking of your warehouse. Drones implemented in this way may seem like a daunting cost, but over time the fuel saved by replacing warehouse equipment with electric drones saves money and reduces carbon emissions making your warehouse a more pleasant place to be in.
As with any new technological undertaking, the beginning can be the most difficult part, but by using drones in your warehouse, you take the monotony and put it into automation. This frees up your workforce to accomplish other inventory and warehouse management tasks that will keep your operation on track.