Amazon's recent announcement that it will consider delivering packages directly to customers via unmanned drone aircrafts is just the latest proof that the supply chain is in the midst of drastic change. In an interview with 60 minutes, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that the motivation behind drone use will be to deliver packages to customers within 30 minutes of ordering.
Going by the name of Amazon Prime Air vehicles, the drones would pick up packages at an Amazon fulfillment center and load them into a small yellow bucket. They will then fly directly to the shipping address of the customer who placed the order.
While it may be years before Amazon Prime Air vehicles are a common sight, the idea of their consideration in modern use shows that supply chain pioneers are not afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to embracing new technology. It also shows how e-commerce continues to place new demands on supply chain management.
For Data Collection Solutions, The Future is Already Here
Even before drones are flying packages to customers' doorsteps, distribution centers need to take advantage of new systems that decrease select-to-ship times and improve inventory control. While still utilizing traditional vehicles and human workers, automated data collection systems can reduce time interruptions in the warehouse.
- Voice picking software: One way to improve efficiency and embrace state-of-the-art technology is using speech recognition software. This technology allows workers to keep their hands and eyes on their job instead of on scanners. Voice confirmation programs also reduce the number of errors related to inaccurate item picking.
- Data capture software: Solutions that sync directly with ERP systems are now available, allowing for data collection that creates a much clearer picture of an item's journey through the warehouse. This helps identify areas that need improvement and provides better inventory control.
Mobile data collection is also of growing importance to supply chain managers, as it allows increased tracking of packages once they are en route to a customer. Data collection provides managers with more information to analyze, and can help reduce the rate of damaged and lost packages.
While unmanned flying machines delivering directly to customers may seem like science fiction, automated sources of data collection and voice technology are already creating advanced distribution centers.