I have often been struck by the stark contrast in sophistication, automation and control inside the walls of our customer’s facilities, compared to the outside. Inside the walls, lean and six-sigma thinking prevails, while outside, beyond the dock, yard checks are commonly performed by scribbling notes on yesterday’s printout. I am always on the lookout for finding new ways to optimize the movement of goods between the dock doors of facilities.
Aerial drone based inventory checking offers a solution to two particular challenging asset inventory verification use cases. The first is performing yard check operations for heavy manufacturing facilities, where high value assets are densely packed outside plants, and secondly, lay-down yards commonly used by the oil industry, where assets are simply placed in piles over several acres of land.
Some forward thinking retailers are considering using a drone based approach inside their mega distribution centers. Here, scanning and reconciling inventory is even more labor intensive and expensive inside a facility than outside in the yard. Why is this? To answer this question, you have to appreciate that having humans performing checks and manually entering or reconciling inventory is intrinsically error prone. While operational excellence attempts to enforce consistent process execution, when you have a people involved, errors do occur. To mitigate the unreliability of human input, organizations are compelled to adopt automated approaches to locate and reconcile inventory. The major benefit of an automated approach is that it generates ‘clean’ data that can be used to reliably optimize operations, which is a better use of labor. There are many readily available sensor technologies available including GPS, passive RFID, optical character recognition and telematics systems.
Whether inventory is captured from readers mounted at a gate, on a yard truck or on an aerial drone, removing human intervention and minimizing the need for fingers on keyboards is really the most accurate and efficient way of capturing inventory data. Let’s put the era of what I call the ‘Internet of Fingers’ truly behind and start focusing on realizing the real potential that the Internet-Of-Things promises to provide.
Matt Yearling joined PINC Solutions as chief executive officer in March 2013 and is responsible for the overall strategic and operational management of the company. Matt’s past roles include vice president and general manager of Encryption Products at Symantec Corporation, senior vice president of Global CRM Product Development at Sage Inc., and Chief Technology Officer for Embarcadero Systems Corp (a Ports America company). As vice president of Oracle On Demand Matt played a pivotal role in making it Oracle’s fastest growing line-of-business.