In the United States, it remains difficult to use drones for some tasks. However, drone fleet management, which allows companies to track various activities associated with a supply chain, is catching on with many forward-thinking businesses.
Drone fleet management is relatively easy to incorporate for companies that already have the infrastructure for a supply chain. That includes a fleet of vehicles, warehouses and the technical and mechanics staff needed to run a competitive supply chain. That gives them the tools they need for successful drone fleet management.
The Potential of Drones
Cutting waste and making processes more efficient is the bottom-line advantage for many advanced technologies. Advanced systems make it easier to make smart decisions by leveraging data gathered by remote sensors and providing it in real-time to managers. Much of this wasn’t even possible not that many years ago.
Drones fall into this category. Today, drones can be used to inspect warehouses and worker activities on loading docks. They can cover much more ground than human inspectors, not to mention they document everything seen by the drone camera, making a permanent record that can come in handy when incidents occur.
Drones stored on vehicles can also be deployed in case of an accident involving a truck, recording valuable information about the crash site for use later, especially if there are disputes about what happened.
For warehouses, drones can inspect inventory in one day, compared to the month it takes a human inspector, according to a report from Reuters. Retail giant Wal-Mart is already using the drone system. Constructions sites also use drones as part of a system to track construction site tools.
In The Future
In the near future, drones will be able to help make “the last mile” more efficient – that is, the last segment of the supply chain that delivers the product to customers. This is often one of the most problematic sections of any supply chain.
There are still legal issues with flying a drone in public, however, as well as issues with safety, privacy and protection of the drones themselves from thieves or tampering. Drone delivery law is still in its infancy.
But that is expected to change. When it does, expect drones to begin delivering goods directly to people’s doors.
In the supply chain, drones in the sky will be able to monitor traffic patterns and weather, finding the best routes for delivery trucks. They will conduct inspections and get used at an even higher level for warehouse inventory management.
Looking even further down the road, drones could take over:
- Hauling freight in urban areas, which often hampers large trucks.
- Handle air freight better than airplanes, which are tied to fixed airport locations, unlike drones.
- Compliment rail transportation by unloading packages from rail cars and delivering them without the train having to stop
- Take over the loading and unloading of freight, keeping human workers out of dangerous situations
Intelligent Vehicle Technology
One of the crucial aspects of drone fleet management is tying it into intelligent vehicle technology provided by fleet telematics providers. Advanced sensors programmed with sophisticated software provide real-time information on travel routes, fuel consumption and the driver’s movements. They allow supply chain managers a better chance to keep track of everything happening along a supply chain route, supporting their efforts to make the system more efficient. Technology is making supply chain more efficient. Both drones and intelligent vehicle technology can work in tandem to make supply chains better and improve customer experience.