From 160 to 1 second per pallet during stocktaking: this is the promise of the drone in logistics. Are you a stock manager dreading your annual inventory? The drone technology associated with the inventory robot is the solution!
The logistics inventory robot facilitates the work of warehouse employees. Its various functionalities meet the needs of the supply chain in terms of speed and reliability of inventory management. The logistics drone offers better inventory performances than manual inventory. How is the inventory by drone carried out? There are many benefits of robotization in logistics: find out more about our COUNTBOT® drone solution in this article.
Drone used in Supply Chain: what is it about?
Popular for several years, their professional use continues to grow to support companies in the logistics sector. The value of the professional drone market has increased fourfold from 2015 to 2020.
What is a drone?
A drone is an autonomous or remotely piloted vehicle capable of performing various tasks while moving in space. Initially developed for military or aerospace use, it operates without a pilot on board. Depending on the model, the autonomy capacity, the size, but also the weight differs. This device can be remotely controlled live, but also programmed to move autonomously (if it has an integrated GPS system). Drones can fly at varying heights or distances depending on the use: military, leisure, professional.
Are all drones flying?
The term drone refers to a flying object, but not all drones are aerial. They are divided into several categories:
- Aerial drones: equipped with wings or multicopters (flying machines with several engines and propellers). Aircraft with wings are preferred for long-distance photography or aerial inspection. Multicopters (tricopters, quadricopters, octocopters, etc.) are chosen for their carrying capacity. The flying drone is called an aircraft.
- Underwater drones: adapted to the marine environment where access is difficult, they can explore and map the ocean floor, take underwater photos, or inspect marine industrial infrastructures such as oil platforms.
- Ground-based drones: also known as UGVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles). They can be used to clear mines, map areas, transport equipment or goods. Ground drones can operate in difficult or constrained environments, thus providing greater speed of action. They also have a greater autonomy capacity.
How is the drone useful in logistics?
The machine covers various activities in the warehouse:
- Locating items in large spaces
- Accessing high or narrow storage areas
- Mapping shelves and determining occupancy rates
- Conducting inventories…
The drone can thus cover a wide range of tasks to relieve logistics operators.
What missions can a drone perform in logistics?
Depending on the technical characteristics of your drone, it can:
- Navigate and find its way around the warehouse with an integrated geolocation system
- Read barcodes or SKU codes of products using cameras
- Transmit item locations to your WMS (warehouse management software).
The different stages of a drone inventory are generally the following:
- Needs analysis, then drawing up specifications to choose the most suitable automatic inventory tool.
- Mapping of the storage area: first 2D scanning to determine the robot’s trajectories, then 3D representation of the storage racks in the warehouse.
- Carrying out the inventory: the drone moves along the aisles to flash the various products.
- Review of results, adjustment of data, if necessary, by logistics staff if the drone does not cover 100% of the storage area.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a drone in logistics?
Like any technological innovation, the logistics drone has its advantages and disadvantages.
Benefits of inventory by drone
The inventory drone assists logistics operators on a daily basis, resulting in :
- A reduction in the use of human resources: the drone’s movements in the warehouse are faster than those of a human;
- A reduction in the need for material resources: the cradles used to reach the highest shelves are no longer necessary;
- A decrease in the number of human errors due to automated counting;
- Increased productivity: information is transmitted in real time to operators by the drone.
The fully automated inventory solution saves time, increases safety (fewer accidents due to falls), provides flexibility in the use of resources and reliability (identical repetition of operations).
Limitations of an inventory drone
This new technology can be difficult for the company to understand. Inventory management by drone can cause difficulties:
- High purchase price: drones adapted to warehouses have a high cost;
- Clear identification of items: for the drone to be able to read the labels, they must be visible from the aisles and up to date;
- System autonomy limitations: an aerial drone has an autonomy of less than one hour, limiting the ability to carry out an inventory;
- Downtime: inventories should be carried out outside of business hours, as the drone cannot function properly if the aisles are not clear. This also helps to avoid potential accidents.
COUNTBOT®: the innovative logistics drone solution to automate your inventories
COUNTBOT® is the solution proposed by Tonner Drones, developed in close collaboration with the logistics group GEODIS. This product is a combination of a ground-based drone: unmanned, which can be programmed or piloted remotely, and a robot: with automation and repeatability of tasks. This inventory drone robot allows for automatic and accurate monitoring of warehouse stocks. The COUNTBOT® system simplifies the inventory tasks by improving the reliability of your stocks!
COUNTBOT® drone robot features
COUNTBOT® is equipped with 14 cameras and an automated navigation system. It identifies and locates complete pallets using its intelligent algorithms, in various warehouse configurations. It allows the Warehouse Management System to be updated with verified data. Other technical features differentiate it.
- Geolocation of pallets in the warehouse, without the need to place additional labels to the product.
- Detection of empty locations without the need to provide preliminary details.
- Integrated mapping software capable of adapting to different storage configurations.
- Generation of a quantified mission report and identification of potential counting errors.
- Securing logistical operations with an automatic stop in the presence of an obstacle.
- Generation of orthophotographs that facilitate the control of item locations and save stock management operators having to travel.
What are the advantages of COUNTBOT® developed by GEODIS and Tonner Drones?
What are the benefits of this inventory drone compared to another one?
- Its autonomy: 8 full hours, enough to complete your entire warehouse inventory in one go!
- Its “Follow me” function: thanks to its multiple sensors, the robot can quickly follow the operator around the site.
- Its simplified interface: with a quick start-up, the screen allows to program the mapping of any type of warehouse, to launch label scans, to edit a mission report. The result obtained allows the WMS to be updated with verified data.
- Its cameras: in the same way as a radio frequency terminal or a barcode reader, the multiple cameras make it possible to scan at a rate of one pallet per second!
The future of logistics drones in business
Inventory is a time-consuming task that requires a significant mobilisation of resources. In response, inventory drones offer many possibilities for facilitating the management of stocks of goods in industry.
The development of drones is constant, with the appearance of new functionalities, but also an ever more qualitative precision. They are the perfect complement to :
- Management software (ERP, WMS, etc.);
- Radio frequency terminals (RFID solutions or barcode scanning).
The combination of a logistics drone with a WMS is recommended to optimise the reliability of the inventory.
Already present in production, robotisation is now conquering the supply chain.
Three key points to remember:
- Drones are not just flying connected objects. They are also ground vehicles capable of facilitating the work of supply chain operators.
- Using a robotic solution for stocktaking saves time. It increases the reliability, flexibility and safety of this logistical operation.
- Our COUNTBOT® solution, combining performance and new technologies, is available as a service to meet your logistics needs
Warehouse inventory is a time-consuming task for your teams. A dronic solution takes care of almost all of this logistic operation. Thanks to this inventory robot that adapts to your warehouse, your stock management is easier and faster: you gain in performance over the year.
Would you like to discuss your logistics project? Contact us via our form, we are at your disposal to discuss.