Friday, September 12, 2014

Drones for Inventory Management?

Drones seem to be the new “hot topic” when it comes to warfare. Recently, we’ve heard more in the news about drone technology being used for other purposes.

In the UAE, a company called Exponent Technology Services has developed new drone technologies to help steel companies manage their inventory. Exponent has found a way to leverage the technology of drones (or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and Radio Frequency Identification.

Inventory tracking for the steel industry in the UAE has been a challenge recently with the large amounts of stock it handles that is constantly changing. It took quite a bit of tracking to see where the steel was being moved and which type of steel. Time is spent tracking inventory and processing orders that requires time and resources. Age Steel, a company that has employed this new technology prioritized accuracy and time sensitivity in its orders. Exponent found a way to leverage the RFID technology so that identified the bundle being tracked in an open yard of thousands of other orders.

Without getting too technical, I was curious to know how this technology works. An application gathers data from an RFID tag using a RFID reader and sends that information back to the inventory management system via a GPRS connections. This is then able to determine the location of the bundle. It is not always completely accurate, but according to Exponent it is 98.2% f the time.  

How does this improve inventory management? Aside from the obvious reasons – being able to track inventory in real time, this technology helps in a few ways. As we learned from the reading, operational performance is a key metric for measuring inventory management. By tracking the steel inventory in real time, operational costs decrease. Time and manpower is saved rather then wasting resources in locating bundles.

Age Steel had also mentioned that it wanted to lessen the human input that was required for tracking and finding a way to automate it. This technology, though requiring some human input” drastically decreases the amount of time and work that must be put in.

We also know that a supply chain has many parts and processes to making it a complete process. Tracking inventory is only one component to the supply chain. By eliminating wasted time, other parts of the supply chain are able to move along and orders are most likely delivered faster and more timely. 


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