Gather AI & Barrett Distribution on the Many Benefits of Drone-Powered Inventory Monitoring for Warehouses

According to Interaction Analysis, an industry research firm, there will be 214,000 warehouses worldwide by 2027, up from 163,000 in 2021. Accurate inventory is critical for these warehouses. Accurate inventory ensures there are no unexpected shortages, shipments are handled on time and warehouse space is fully utilized.

These days it can be difficult to have an accurate inventory in a warehouse as the industry struggles 49% annual labor turnover. Training and retaining talent that can follow warehouse processes is challenging, with the result that up to 10% of products are put away in the wrong location or the wrong product is picked for shipment. To check for inventory errors, warehouses have people go from pallet location to pallet location and manually compare what they find with what is reported in their Warehouse Management System (WMS). This is time consuming, labour-intensive, has little added value and is also affected by labor issues.

Drone inventory monitoring is a way for warehouses to meet the inventory challenge. A leading supplier is Gather AI, the first established company to use drones to automate inventory monitoring processes for warehouse managers to optimize profitability. With the Gather AI solution, drones fly autonomously through a warehouse and photograph pallet locations. Machine learning algorithms read barcodes and text to compare what is read with what is in the WMS. This means employees no longer spend long, tedious hours doing manual inventory with forklifts, and there is less chance of misplacing products (no oversized orders, no more delayed shipments, and more). The warehouse manager can view inventory data in real time through a web dashboard and easily identify and resolve inventory exceptions, even create a task list for their teams. This process is up to 15 times faster than manual cycle counting, and drone-powered inventory monitoring can be applied to virtually any type of warehouse.

Now let’s look at a specific use case. Collect AI client, Barrett Distributionprovides customized 3PL, DTC e-commerce fulfillment, omni-channel distribution, comprehensive transportation management and retail compliance for customers in apparel and footwear, health and beauty, CPG, consumer electronics, food, candy, grocery and automotive.

VP of Business Process Optimization, Jim Rapoza, shares in this conversation how in his opinion the Gather AI technology has been great. They have seen a significant improvement in inventory speed, especially in very narrow aisle aisles (VNAs) and scan approximately 300 locations per flight hour in VNAs, resulting in 1800-2000 license plates per flight hour. This enables their team members to perform more value-added activities such as investigating nonconformities, auditing, and training to support business operations. He says, “We’ve also seen improvements in DPPM of up to 70% in a high-precision facility.”

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SVP of Customer Solutions, Scott Hothem, in a recent webinar talked about how Barrett was able to differentiate using the Gather AI solution. During a tour that led a potential customer through a facility, the customer was so interested in the drones that they spent 30 minutes looking at them and discussing the benefits. Scott says that was a disruptive event and they ended up winning the business. He says: “Clients like to see things that are new and different. At the end of the day, it’s not just about your people, but about new and interesting technology and how it will benefit them.”

Other real-life examples of how autonomous drones have improved inventory monitoring processes: they have reduced the time to collect a company’s entire inventory from 90 days to 2.5 days and the WMS error rate from 11% to 3% in three months. One company saved $350,000 by improving storage efficiency, and another doubled its revenue in one year.

Gather AI started with three students from Carnegie Mellon University, Sankalp Arora, Daniel Maturana and Geetesh Dubey, who were studying robotics. As part of their doctoral research, they developed the world’s first guaranteed-safe full-size autonomous helicopter funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and tested it at FBI training grounds at Quantico. The helicopter was able to avoid obstacles, land on its own, cover 10 kilometers in less than three minutes and build a beautiful 3D map of the environment. The drones were curious about landing zones, wires, building openings and moving assets. That’s when these three further realized drones are excellent data-gathering machines. Their project won the Howard Hughes award, the AUVSI Xcellence award and was nominated for the Collier Trophy.

The three brought their research and passion for making drones curious to Gather AI in 2018.

When planning inventory monitoring activities for next year and beyond, consider drone-powered inventory monitoring. Your employees, customers and partners will thank you.

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