Top 10 reasons why aerial robots (autonomous drones) for inventory management make sense

They are:

  1. Increased frequency of inventory checks
  2. Increased certainty of inventory levels
  3. Reduced losses due to inventory shrinkage
  4. More reliable financial reporting
  5. Better visibility to out-of-stock and excess inventory
  6. Increased velocity of order picking
  7. Savings in personnel costs or operations downtime
  8. Elimination of resources and equipment
  9. Staff redirected to handle high value activities
  10. Safer environment for employees

I continue to stress that every company on the planet, that has a significant supply chain operation, is plagued by inventory reconciliation problems. If you are familiar with warehouse operations, you know. It is the nature of the game, and a challenge that companies have historically used better forecasting, shifting safety stock levels, and enhanced order point and order quantity processes to overcome. Maybe your company never reconciles its stocks, maybe you shut down operations to do a full check, or maybe you utilize a robust approach to cycle counting. However, even in the best-case scenario, these processes produce an 89% to 99% confidence level of inventory per Tompkins Supply Chain Consortium Report: Inventory Accuracy Through Cycle Counting.

What are you doing to improve your warehouse inventory accuracy?

E-commerce, omni-channel, constantly-changing customer demands, and a labor shortage aren’t making those problems any easier. In fact, the rise of the digital supply chain is directly impacting how retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and logistics providers manage inventory across all of their distribution and sales channels.

You may have the best warehouse staff on the planet, but if those employees are following manual repetitive tasks, errors are going to occur. It doesn’t matter if an organization has the latest and greatest warehouse management system (WMS). The fact is, if employees have to physically touch or scan inventory during the put-away, inventory check, or pick processes, errors are bound to happen. The only debate would be the scale of the problem.

A growing number of companies are considering the use of aerial robots (autonomous drones), coupled with advanced sensor capabilities like passive-RFID, cameras, barcode scanners and deep learning computer vision to solve their myriad inventory management and tracking problems. Having these aerial robots means performing repetitive tasks in hard to reach locations more efficiently than today’s methods. It will also enable organizations to allocate resources to more productive activities.

To be clear, we are not talking about barcode scanners strapped to quadcopters manually controlled from the ground by an operator. This is a recipe for disaster. The drone needs to be a fully-fledged aerial robot that has vision capability, enabling it to quickly move around in space safely and read inventory accurately. Basically, if a person is able to identity inventory, a robot can be taught to do the same thing.

That is why businesses that struggle with day-to-day inaccurate inventory data, large year-end adjustments of physical inventory results, or a lengthy annual physical inventory process are investing in automated inventory checks using drones, including the biggest organizations in the world.

Matt YearlingMatt Yearling is CEO of PINC Solutions. He joined PINC 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., 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.