Watch: Look Up: Drones Are Reducing Headcount in the Warehouse

Drones reduce headcount and bring greater accuracy to inventory management in the warehouse, says Ian Smith, chief executive officer of Ware.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused labor scarcity in warehousing, many companies were looking to reduce the size of their workforces, says Smith. “They wanted to remove their reliance on human labor because humans are susceptible to viruses, they introduce a lot of error, they’re expensive, hard to find, and they don’t do well with dirty, dangerous jobs. They wanted to reduce the overall spend on headcount and bring robots in to automate all these jobs.”

Nevertheless, while robots can do many jobs so much better than humans, Smith says, many operations require human workers. Consequently, trained employees, rather than being cut loose, are shifted to other jobs in the warehouse.

But humans can’t compete with robots that fly. Warehouse automation these days is more than autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and sophisticated sortation systems. “Now, you also have robots that fly, which is kind of a new paradigm.”

Smith thinks the days of walking the floor and entering inventory count in scanner guns are limited. “If you’re a huge company, that’s kind of a broken process. There’s got to be a better way. So we place a camera in robots, which happen to fly, and we take pictures of every single piece of inventory in the facility, faster than humans can do it.”

Time management is one of the selling points in favor of drones, Smith says. Walking miles in a million-square-foot warehouse is enormously time-consuming. Movement in the warehouse is in three dimensions, “but there’s a fourth dimension, which is time.” That can be reduced considerably with flying robots, he says.

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