Case Study

Executive Summary

While manual inventory management process with physical labor takes 6-8 minutes/pallet, automating the process with the help of drones brings the time down to 1-2 minutes/pallet. Using drones for carrying out physical inventory processes in warehouses has a potential of reducing the time consumption by almost 93%.

About

The client is a leading producer of a wide range of premium FMCG products in the Middle East region. It stores its huge catalog of products in large warehouses and has a fast-moving supply chain.

Challenges

The client was witnessing inventory inaccuracies and rising labor cost with its manual process of warehouse management. In one instance, poor document management at the warehouse led to an inventory file going missing and creating a chaos in the supply chain. Moreover, manual barcode scanning of high shelves was proving to be both time consuming and dangerous to the workers.

Requirement

The client needed a customized tech-savvy solution to manage and coordinate operations in its large warehouses to reduce errors and make the inventory process more efficient and streamlined.

Solution

A completely automated solution for inventory management was implemented by Limitless Mobility using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones.

The key requirement was to have an accurate map of the warehouse with details of all the aisles and rack locations, using which drones could navigate the area. For indoor referencing and to increase the positional accuracy of the drones, beacons were placed in aisles and pathways of the warehouse. These beacons created positional coordinates which proved quite helpful in the navigation.

Limitless equipped the drones with a scanner which could scan various barcode stickers like EAN and UCC. Post the data scan, the drones needed to communicate to a WMS system or custom software which can capture the location and inventory. For this process, Limitless made sure that the drones used a frequency which was different from the other equipment in the warehouse, such as, forklift terminals, handheld terminals and RFID devices using Wi-Fi.

Drones have propellers that spin at 10,000 rpm and could break when striking objects. The splinters of plastic could also damage an eye of a worker. Since both drones and humans had to work in the same environment, Limitless put in place a robust ‘anti-avoidance’ technology to avoid accidents.

Result

Earlier, manual inventory management process with physical labor used to take 6-8 minutes/pallet. Automating the process with the help of drones brought the time down to 1-2 minutes/pallet, leading us to conclude that using drones for executing physical inventory process in the warehouse has a potential of reducing the time consumption by almost 93%. The requirement of forklifts and handheld RF readers were also minimized which helped in cutting down on the costs. In the future, the client plans to use drones to search for items and marking them once they are found.

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