Drones Up and Coming in Warehousing

One of the growing technologies in warehousing is drone technology. It’s an exciting time for automation in the industry, and drone technology is one way to automate and make jobs easier. Just as any new technology price points will be, drones are relatively pricey right now and the technology is still in its infancy in many markets. As the technology moves along the growth curve, we can anticipate that there will be rapid changes in the capabilities as it is used in different scenarios throughout the industry. For example, the data gathering capability technology of a drone in a big box warehouse will eventually evolve into a technology that can handle any size warehouse with ease. 

Considering that warehousing is 30 percent of logistics costs in the United States, an investment in something that can lower those costs in the long run seems sensible. In addition, most warehouse inventories are resting, or static – that is, once they move in, they move only when it’s time to move out. 

If you house any large inventory quantities, or have a large warehousing team, you can use the drone technology to augment your current practices. Notice we said, “augment,” not “improve” or “replace.” In this era of technology and robotics, employers must be aware of the implications of incorporating technology in to their businesses. Drones are not designed to replace humans or the existing storage solutions. They are designed to help make your employees more productive and provide data for better sales strategies. The only way to increase your sales or make decisions about cost-cutting is to use and analyze the data collected and turn it into money-saving solutions.
It’s not about the data itself, but about how you use it to make changes in your warehouse profitability. For those who can commit to the data analysis and solution development, here are a few basic ways a drone can be helpful in the warehouse: 

– Drones can do a physical inventory of your warehouse. Instead of pulling employees away from their daily duties and possibly closing the facility for a period of time to get an accurate inventory count, let the drone do it for you in almost half the time. The employees who would normally conduct the inventory can be deployed to higher-level duties that will help drive sales. 

-Drones can signal product shortages or light inventory. The unit can be programmed to alert you when it’s time to reorder. 

– Drones can tell you if the inventory is in the correct place in the warehouse. If it’s sitting on a wayward pallet somewhere and hasn’t been moved since arrival, you might consider adding it to an existing racking system or shelving unit. You can build upward with pallets, if you don’t expect the product to be in great demand. If it will be moving back out the door within the month, consider a rack system or pallet configuration that allows quick access to the product. 

– Drones can inspect inventory labels and take photos of inventory and the surrounding environment. By reviewing the data, you could find any number of anomalies that you would not have otherwise known. For example, if the inventory is poorly organized, it will show in the photos and the data analysis. If there is anything blocking the product or the ability of workers to access the product while picking, you will see that on closer examination. Solutions may range from reorganization with a new shelving unit just for that product, or creating a pathway for forklifts to gain easy access to the area. 

– Drones can inspect the warehouse shelving, rack systems and storage solutions by providing aerial photos of all parts of the warehouse. It can find potential danger zones of leaks, weight problems or shelving security. Proactive action now can save you thousands of dollars later. 

After getting the data from the drone, it’s up to you and your team to take that data, review it, identify challenges and opportunities, and add some brain power to come up with solutions. If you’ve invested in the drone technology, be ready to invest in its findings. It could mean money-saving initiatives for you in warehouse productivity and organization. 

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