We’ve written before about how drones are being put to work in the warehouse environment, replacing equipment such as conveyor belts to automate the warehouse environment. It’s looking more and more likely that drones are coming to a warehouse near you sometime soon. They are now in use in many warehouses around the world and they are doing more than just moving inventory. If they can prove their value in these warehouses, it could be just a few years before they are in your warehouse, too. The potential benefits of using drones are huge:
- Reduction in costs. Not only will drones bring a reduction in unskilled labor costs, but once the drones are paid for, they are essentially free labor other than maintenance and repair costs.
- Free up space. If you aren’t relying on bulky conveyor belts and other large warehouse equipment to move your inventory around, you are going to have a lot more floor space available. That space can be put to good use holding more inventory or as picking, packing returns, or shipping areas.
- Smaller, more efficient warehouse. If you don’t need as much space for equipment or your human labor force, then you might not need as big of a warehouse. That’s not only a reduction in operating costs, it could lead to a much more efficient warehouse environment.
- Fewer worker’s compensation claims. When you aren’t relying on a human workforce for low-skill-but-high-risk work, you aren’t assuming the worker’s compensation costs that come with it. If a drone is hurt, it’s a matter of making some repairs and getting it back into action. It can also be immediately replaced by another drone. There is no recovery time, so there is no loss of productivity on the job.
While all of these sound pretty good, what drones can actually do in the warehouse sounds even better.
How Drones Are Working in a Warehouse Near You
We’ve all heard about how Amazon is utilizing drone technology to make deliveries. It’s going to become more and more common as online retailers grab for more of the market share among consumers who are lured in by the promises of fast delivery times. But delivering to the customer isn’t the only way drones can delivery. They can also be used for in-warehouse deliveries. Assembly lines can request products from the warehouse and have them delivered via drone in minutes. All the picking can be done by drones while their human teammates focus on packing and shipping. Drones will have a lower error rate and high efficiency because they won’t get tired.
Cameras are great. Cameras on drones are even better. Warehouse security will be better than ever when drones are on the job. Drones will be able to go into areas that could be hard to cover on the camera, or even get in close to monitor suspicious activity. Drones could even be used to monitor the delivery of inventory to ensure there is no activity of concern happening on the docks. Outside surveillance could be more efficient, too, since drones won’t care about the temperatures or what time of day or night they are making their rounds.
Inspections are an everyday part of warehouse life. Pretty soon drones could be helping with warehouse equipment inspections, such as pallet racking and conveyor systems. High-definition cameras will give operators a clear view of potentially damaged areas and determine whether they need to be fixed or not. Drones are becoming more and more intelligent, too, so in the future drones could detect potential dangers while making their normal inspection rounds and report them.
This is one area that should have warehouses especially excited. Inventory is a massive task for warehouses, and drones could play a big part in the management of inventory in the future. Drones could be launched to help perform counts on high up shelves or even trained to do counts on their own and report discrepancies based on comparisons with computer inventory. Drones could provide constant inventory monitoring so issues are spotted and dealt with before they cause an issue down the supply chain. Some inventory-counting drone manufacturers estimate that two drones could count an entire warehouse in the same amount of time it would take 100 people to do the same inventory count!
Concerns About Using Drones
It’s not all good news when it comes to incorporating drones into the warehouse environment. There are many valid concerns that arise when discussing this kind of automation.
- Losing jobs. More drones will probably mean fewer workers. Industry experts say that while that might be true, it won’t be immediate. The number of workers who are replaced will probably be less than initially expected, but instead, it will simply make the warehouse more efficient and free up workers to devote their time to skilled projects.
- Safety. Safety is the primary concern of any warehouse manager. So will drones be safe? Because they are becoming more common, there are more regulations coming out from the government about how, where, and when they can be used. While everyone will be concerned about safety, you can be assured that there will be growing pains as we figure out what the limitations are for drones.
- It’s more fad than progress. Some warehouse managers are convinced that drones are more flash than actual innovation. That remains to be seen. There are a lot of advances in the area and more to come in the future. Once drones have been proven to work in warehouses where they are currently operating, there is a great chance they’ll experience wide-spread use.
Are you looking for ways to innovate and automate your warehouse equipment? Our team can help. Get in touch with RMH Systems today and let’s talk about how our team can help make your warehouse more efficient than ever. Give us a call or contact us through our website and we’ll get to work on an automation plan that works with your space, budget, and needs. Find out why so many Illinois businesses rely on RMH for all of their warehouse equipment needs!