Things to Think About When Choosing a Warehouse Drone Inventory Monitoring Solution

You’ve seen the benefits of using warehouse drones for inventory monitoring, and how the solution can decrease your cost of inventory accuracy, improve productivity and boost revenue. When it comes time to choose a vendor, here are some things you should consider:

1. How many pallets per hour can the solution scan?

Solutions that can fly continuously through battery swapping have high throughput and can scan up to 900 pallets locations an hour which is 15x faster than a typical cycle counter. Your inventory team can scan what used to take them almost two days in one hour. Solutions requiring the drone to stop and recharge typically have lower throughput because the drone has to spend the majority of its time charging.

2. Can the solution scan when you need it?

When you discover that you have misplaced inventory, you need to find it right away. With trucks at the dock door or manufacturing lines ready to go, you can’t wait until tomorrow to find what you are looking for. If a solution works when people are in the warehouse, inventory teams can launch the drone to scan inventory immediately so they can quickly find what’s missing. Solutions that can only scan at night or on off-hours won’t help you find your missing inventory until tomorrow when it’s too late.

3. Can you launch it from anywhere in the warehouse?  

With a solution that you can bring to any location in a warehouse, your inventory team can scan wherever they need to scan. With solutions that require a nest or charge pad, the drone flight path is limited as the drone has to have enough battery life to return to a charge pad and charge.

4. Is it safe enough to work around people?

With some solutions, you don’t have to shut down the aisle, not to mention the entire warehouse.  You simply need to keep people 15 feet away from where the drone is operating. Your team can continue working in the rest of the aisle.  If someone needs to access the area where the drone is flying you can simply press land and then re-launch the drone when they are done. Other solutions may require that no people to be in the warehouse when scanning.

5. What’s your return on investment?

Cycle counting labor is only a part of the business benefit of the using warehouse drones for inventory monitoring. Other things must be taken into consideration including the cost to install the system, the recurring cost, hardware replacement cost (and timing), the reliability of the technology, and the flexibility to use it when you really need it. All of these factors contribute to an overall return on investment.

6. Does the solution give you the insights you need?

To be effective, do you need a solution that reads one barcode per pallet or multiple barcodes per pallet? Do you need a solution that can read text on labels or on a box? Do you need to be able to count the front face of the pallet? The answer to these questions will determine which solution would work best for your needs.

7. What effect will the solution have on employee satisfaction?

Warehouses have challenges finding and keeping labor. Solutions that can fly continuously through battery swapping allow their inventory teams to upskill and increase job satisfaction., helping warehouses retain employees. Inventory team members spend 1/15 of the time they used to spend counting doing inventory monitoring using the drone. The rest of the time they are focused on other value-added activities.

8. How easy is it to get started and grow?

Before choosing a vendor, you should understand what changes are needed in your warehouse, the extra equipment you need, and the ongoing maintenance requirements. You should also understand what it would take to scale the solution up or down over time. Solutions that fly at night or on off-hours require a location where the drone charges and may require internet connectivity, power drops, beacons, or other infrastructure in the warehouse. Solutions that fly continuously through battery swapping use a portable cart to bring the drone to a location and only require stickers on the racks for navigation - no other warehouse changes are needed.

9. How quickly can you get replacement parts and how much do they cost?

Warehouses are busy places and, even if everyone is careful, hardware can break. You should find out how long it will take you to get replacement parts and what the cost will be.

10. How mature is the hardware?

Having a reliable drone is critical. One factor driving reliability is volume. Solutions that use commodity drones use drones that are manufactured in the millions and that are proven to be reliable and ready for hard work in your environment. These drones can be upgraded over time with the latest technology. Purpose-built drones have features that give them advantages in the warehouse, but they are manufactured in lower volumes and it may take longer for companies to innovate.

11. Do you have to own the hardware?  

Solutions that use commodity drones are subscription software, they supply the drones for free, and if you have any problems they will replace them with next-day shipping. They will also upgrade your drones as new hardware comes out so you will never be losing money on a depreciating capital investment. Solutions using purpose-built drones may require you to buy the drone and pay to replace it.