Supply Chain Dive - Move over delivery drones, warehouse drones are ready for the spotlight

Warehouse Drones Still Face Limitations

Gartner Analyst, Dwight Klappich talking to Supply Chain Dive and highlighting the problems that enterprises face when it comes to tracking warehouse inventory. Drones are cool, but still suffer from “Garbage in Garbage out” problem.

“Some companies have locally inadequate inventory management, and they have latched onto the idea that flying a drone up and down the aisles every night would solve their problem, he said. “But you really should start by looking at what’s causing these problems, whether the staff is putting inventory where they’re supposed to put it. Fix those problems, and then you’re not going to need the drone.”

At this early stage, the drone technology is facing some limitations that may be overcome in the future.

First of all, the view of inventory is limited to what the drone can see from beside or above a rack. “Realistically, I wonder if anything flying up and down an aisle really gives an accurate view of inventory because all it can see is the front of the pallet,” Klappich said.

One alternative to flying drones is a fixed sensor system such as the one developed by Cloudleaf, an internet-of-things based asset tracking company. It’s system is a mesh of intelligent sensors and cloud technology that gathers data in the warehouse in real time.

“You can have inexpensive tags on pallets and readers in the ceiling like Cloudleaf that can tell you where every one of your pallets is, and that solves the problem of people not putting pallets where they’re supposed to go,” Klappich said. “But Cloudleaf is not going to send you a picture of what’s on the pallet.”

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