Innovation Research Manager, Kenco Logistics
Kenco Logistics is a leading provider of integrated logistics solutions that include distribution and fulfillment, comprehensive transportation management, material handling services, real estate management and information technology—all engineered for Operational Excellence.
Kenco has built customer relationships that span decades. Privately held and financially strong, Kenco takes corporate responsibility seriously by engaging in ethical, honest, and sustainable business practices. In 60 years, Kenco has grown into a fully integrated logistics provider managing over 90 distribution facilities with more than 30 million square feet of space. Kenco currently serves over 200 clients with varying logistics needs.
As new and emerging technologies evolve into the mainstream, it’s up to 3PL providers to understand and educate customers about up-and-coming technologies to stay on the forefront of logistics trends. By doing so, those 3PL providers will have an advantage at identifying innovative and cost-saving opportunities for customers, while having the competency in knowing which emerging technologies can have an immediate impact on the supply chain.
Kenco Innovation Labs, an internal team at Kenco that aims to bring innovation to the supply chain, works closely with customers to understand the warehouse of the future through education and prototyping emerging technologies. One area of interest that continued to surface was drones, and how they could be used to overcome challenges within the warehouse: real-time visibility, inventory management, and more. Despite industry conversation about the potential impact of drones, many weren’t clear on when or how they could realistically deploy them.
Kenco Innovation Labs partnered with JDA Labs, a global research and development team at JDA Software, to research and prototype a technology solution that to determine if drone technology would allow warehouse customers to have access to an enhanced, real-time inventory and visibility into their warehouse.
Kenco Innovation Labs selected DroneScan to assist with this in-depth research project, to get a real-life idea of how drones could deliver improved functionalities around inventory counting and visibility. DroneScan drones are equipped to provide live feedback and integration with database systems, such as the JDA Warehouse Management System (WMS). By partnering with JDA Labs and DroneScan for this project, Kenco Innovation Labs demonstrated that drones can scan barcodes on pallets and record the location of items in real-time in the WMS, which allow JDA’s WMS to provide enhanced inventory and warehouse visibility without traditional human bar code scanning.
The integration of JDA Warehouse Management to DroneScan drones during this project allows for the companies to have a true understanding of the potential impact of drones in the supply chain, specifically how drones might improve operational efficiency and increase inventory accuracy. JDA Labs and Kenco Innovation Labs’ partnership with DroneScan resulted in deep knowledge and the ability to make recommendations to their customers regarding drones in the supply chain. The capability for JDA Labs and Kenco Innovation Labs to utilize DroneScan drones to research and prototype these technologies is critical. Through this partnership, Kenco Innovation Labs and JDA Labs are ahead of the game, as they now have the experience and insight to understand how and why these technologies may or may not make sense for their specific customers.
By researching the capabilities of drones in the warehouse, Kenco Innovation Labs, JDA Labs and DroneScan can demonstrate technologies that could streamline inventory management and supply chain visibility, while increasing time and cost savings.
While drones still need significant improvements before full implementation, understanding and educating customers on the impact of drone scanning now gives expertise and authority surrounding the subject matter.
During the proof of concept experiment, Kenco, DroneScan, and JDA tested the drone bar code scanning technology in several warehouse environments. The solution requires a human to fly the drone and capture the bar code information. In most instances, the drone had a read rate of slightly over 50% on first scan, the battery life was 15 minutes or less, and environmental factors such as high-velocity fans caused interruption in the process. The vision technology on the drone allowed for capture of obsolete inventory in high rack positions.
Once the bar code was captured, the accuracy of the information was greater than 95% and the latency was less than 5ms. These results are encouraging about the future of drones inside the warehouse.
Both Kenco and JDA have customers that have several people dedicated to inventory accuracy utilizing cycle counting functionality in JDA Warehouse Management that could potentially be moved into other more value-generating positions while the drone handles this functionality. However, improvements in autonomous flight, real time indoor locating, battery life, and environmental awareness will need to be created before drones are ready for prime-time warehouse operations.
Drones are the main technology leveraged: an unmanned vehicle that operates without a human on-board. Drones can be autonomous or can be controlled via remote control. DroneScan integrated JDA Warehouse Management into its drone project. JDA Warehouse Management is a user-friendly warehouse management software solution that leverages mobility to provide real-time visibility into all activities. Additional technologies Kenco and JDA research and prototype include AR/VR, IoT, robotics and more.
Though we often hear about drones in the news (many times associated with Amazon’s drone delivery initiatives), drones are not commonplace in today’s warehouse. However, with Kenco Innovation Labs and JDA Labs’ partnership with DroneScan, the companies were able to uncover the benefits of drone technology in the warehouse to have a better understanding of its capabilities and the challenges they will face as drones are implemented into logistics operations.
Kenco Innovation Labs and JDA Labs must straddle the line between innovation for today and innovation for tomorrow. Their research spans the breadth of emerging technologies to provide deep expertise on supply chain impact. They do so for the benefit of their customers, knowing that technology like the DroneScan drone may one day transform into an entire fleet deployed in a warehouse. With this steadfast focus on innovation and the researching, marketing, prototyping and educating Kenco Innovation Labs and JDA Labs offer, customers can better understand the true opportunities in emerging technologies that lie ahead.
DroneScan and Kenco Innovation Labs recently demonstrated at JDA Focus 2017, a yearly conference which showcases current and future innovations across manufacturing, 3PL, and retail. DroneScan and Kenco Innovation Labs created a mock warehouse to demo DroneScan drones in, specifically to showcase how the companies integrated JDA Warehouse Management, how the innovative prototype works, and what the potential benefits are of implementing a technology like this in the warehouse in the future.