With the global shift to online shopping, supply-chain and warehouse managers find themselves under the gun to make their warehouses fit for purpose in a world of high volume and rapid velocity of goods.
Higher volume of goods, that are moving faster than ever before, is obviously great news in terms of revenue, but it also leads to significant pressure on important performance metrics in the warehouse; none more so than operating margin.
In this post, we’re going to explore how autonomous drone technology is resolving some of warehouse managements’ most complex challenges.
How to increase warehouse productivity in the Warehouse Management System
Firstly, it’s important to understand what the productivity metric is actually telling us.
Put simply, productivity gives us an indication of how effective an operation is at generating an output. If we put this in the context of a warehouse operation, you could think of the ‘output’ as the fulfillment of an order. For example, a highly productive warehouse operation is able to fulfill more orders in a day/week/month etc. than a less productive operation with the same labour resource can.
There are many factors that influence warehouse efficiency, but one of the best ways to increase the productive output of a warehouse workforce is to reduce the amount of time it spends on unproductive tasks – a great example of this is routine stocktaking. Whilst it’s clearly a critical job, it reduces the time that’s available for revenue-generating work, eg. preparation and dispatching of orders.
With the new role of a drone in inventory management, warehouse operations can now fully automate their stocktaking activity, therefore enabling a higher proportion of their workforce’s available time to be spent on more productive tasks in the warehouse.
How can autonomous warehouse drones help?
As mentioned above, the main purpose of autonomous drones in a warehouse environment is to automate unproductive inventory control tasks, such as stocktaking, inventory searches, reconciliations and audits.
Drones are also proven to complete inventory counts much faster than humans can. As a result, aisle closure time can be kept to an absolute minimum.
Other benefits of deploying drones in the warehouse
Improved inventory accuracy – As a result of relieving humans of the onerous yet important task of stocktaking, count frequency can be dramatically increased. In turn, this improves inventory accuracy, which reduces the time staff spend looking for ‘misplaced’ stock.
Improved health and safety – With humans out of the loop, safety risks associated with working at height and proximity to forklifts is greatly reduced. Drones can access even the most hard to reach storage locations in the warehouse.
Better fulfillment metrics – Compared to humans with pen and paper or handheld barcode scanners, automated drone scans are considerably faster. This means that the warehouse needs fewer hours of aisle closures, so uptime is maximised.
Visual assessment – Each bin or cell is photographed by the drone as it conducts the scan. This data can then be used by warehouse stakeholders manually (for audits, second counts, etc.) – as well as by algorithms for object recognition, empty/full slot detection, etc.
Existing systems uninterrupted – The solution is designed to integrate with existing Warehouse Management Systems, so information scanned by the drones is seamlessly and automatically updated in the WMS.
Q: Are there any regulations for using drones indoors?
A: No. The UK drone laws are all about protecting airspace users, ie. manned aircraft. As the operation is being conducted indoors, the drone laws you may have read about are not applicable.
Q: How are the drones controlled when there is no pilot?
A: The Operation Centre is pre-programmed with the specific warehouse layout, the system then takes control of the drones to execute their programmed flight routes.
Q: What happens when the drones are not in operation?
A: When the drones have completed their mission, they automatically return to charging stations where they recharge in readiness for the next mission.
Q: Can the solution be deployed in multiple zones within the warehouse?
A: Yes. The solution can be used in multiple zones, either by having a single drone crossover from one zone to another, or by deploying multiple drones in parallel. The right format depends on the specific warehouse layout, cycle counting targets and is subject to health & safety restrictions at your site. All of which we help you with during the pilot phase.
Q: Is WiFi connectivity required for autonomous warehouse drones throughout the entire warehouse?
A: No. The only requirement for internet connectivity is at the ground control station.
Q: How soon can a Proof of Concept/Pilot be deployed at my warehouse?
A: A PoC/pilot can be deployed in less than a week (assuming contract execution and availability of RAWview’s deployment team). Contact us for warehouse drone enquiries.
Q: Is a certified drone pilot required to operate the solution?
A: No. Drone flights using this solution are autonomous – no manual involvement is required for takeoff, navigation, or landing. Thus, a pilot (skilled or otherwise) is not required.
Q: What happens if something goes wrong while flying a drone?
A: All flying is controlled autonomously, so the human error factor is removed. That said, the Warehouse Management Drone Solution is designed with a number of in-built safety features. These include automatic obstacle detection and avoidance in all directions, automatic low battery return to home, automatic critical battery landing etc.
Find out more how our drone application can revolutionise your automation in the warehouse:
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Find out more about the application of drones in warehouses by:
- Emailing us at email@example.com
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