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Drone Cycle Count
Customer Case Study
Distribution and 3rd Party Logistics
Newport, United Kingdom
Autonomous Cycle Counting Drone
The company is the exclusive distributor of HYUNDAI POWER PRODUCTS for the UK and Ireland and the worldwide distributor for JCB portable power and petrol equipment.
In addition to these strong distribution partnerships, the company also provide an extensive range of 3PL fulfilment services from both their 120,000 sqft headquarters in Pembroke Dock and 100,000 sqft, state-of-the-art distribution centre in Newport.
As a company striving to deliver best-in-class service levels to their clients, they wanted to pursue a concept that would give their team the ability to communicate frequent and auditable data to their clients about their palletised and barcoded inventory – in a proactive way – whilst having minimal disruption to the day-to-day work of its warehouse staff.
In round numbers, Genpower’s goal was to take their wall-to-wall stocktake frequency from once a month down to once a week – in essence, a 333% increase in the frequency at which they check their 16,000 racked pallet slots! This ambitious yet enviable goal would clearly require a demand for significantly more labour and machinery resource, which in turn, would either mean taking existing warehouse staff and VNA trucks away from productive duties – thereby, resulting in an inevitable performance drop on key metrics like order lead time and putaway cycle time; OR, employing and training a team of new operatives, whose sole responsibility would be to conduct physical inventory checks – thereby, resulting in increased (and potentially unrecoverable) staff costs. Ultimately, it was deemed too disruptive and too costly to meet their business goals with manual processes, so they sought a method to fully automate the task of PI checks.
With the project’s objectives clearly articulated, RAWview were able to set about meeting the scope given by Genpower’s management team.
As mentioned above, the primary deliverable communicated by Genpower was to have the capacity to complete a wall-to-wall check on a weekly basis and that the checks must be completed at times when the warehouse was not operational, so would therefore need to work in a completely unsupervised, autonomous way. In addition to this, they wanted the proposed solution to automatically compare the captured data with stock records held in their existing Warehouse Management System and to have any deviations flagged to their stock control manager for correction.
This scope lent itself perfectly to an inventory drone system – in particular, inventAIRy XL. With a productive runtime of more than 5 hours per charge and an already proven workrate exceeding 2000 pallet slots within that time, the system offered the perfect solution to the presented challenges.
(16 racks -> circa 4000 locations)
Battery level at completion:
28% (mission 1); 26% (mission 2)
Total time in operation:
10hrs 32mins (split between 2 missions)
380 pallet slots per hour
Benefits and Results
Following implementation and handover of the system – “Dai” as he was cordially named by the Genpower team – their stock control manager immediately set to task on scheduling the company’s first automated stocktakes. During these first missions, the system was monitored closely and the subsequent data analysed to identify potential system optimisations for its new working environment, which were then immediately developed and deployed.
Based on the data from these early missions, it was clear that the system had more than enough capacity to complete a full wall-to-wall check of all 16,000 locations on a weekly basis, per Genpower’s original aspirations. However, we felt there was still room to improve on these stats further by increasing the drone’s flight speed, whilst still maintaining stability and data accuracy and also making use of the full battery charge capacity by increasing the number of racks scheduled for each mission. These optimisations would eliminate the need to run the system over the weekend, thus completing all 52 racks over just 5 weeknights.
Aside from the obvious benefit of providing Genpower’s customers and vendor partners with incredibly useful and always up-to-date information about all inventory under their care, the project has gained interest from the wider logistics industry. This was duly recognised at the 2023 UK Warehousing Association Annual Lunch & Awards ceremony, where Genpower were shortlisted for the Technical Innovation (Hardware) Award – the only 3PL provider to make the final three – for their use of inventAIRy XL.
“Really impressed with this drone-based automated stock control system. With this system we can have a complete fully automated stock check of 16,000 pallet locations every 7 days.
“It normally takes one person on a scissor lift 3-4 weeks to complete this task.”