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Stocktaking drone takes off in Bochum

Aerial support in the warehouse: The Nagel-Group is testing the use of drones for stocktaking for the first time.

It makes sense to perform stocktakes in the warehouse, but it is also laborious. Employees use inventory lists to record information such as the article, batch, number of boxes, sell-by date, the pallet space and compare the data with the Warehouse Management System (WMS).

The use of drones aims to accelerate these processes. The drone flies to the pallets, takes photos, and reads the barcodes using image capturing. The data are collected and subsequently checked against the WMS information. In addition to regular stocktaking, the plan is to use the software later on for recognising quality defects on pallets and documenting damaged shelves in another application. Additional applications include checks or the monitoring of empty spaces outside of an annual inventory.

The drone can unleash its potential, in particular, when it comes to capturing goods in a high warehouse position. Since the employees no longer have to go up themselves, advantages accrue in terms of saved time and increased occupational safety.

A field test at Kraftverkehr Nagel in Bochum intends to clarify over several weeks whether the flying helpers can meet the high expectations in practice. The project team at Corporate Contract Logistics has familiarised itself with the legal challenges from occupational safety to the Air Traffic Act (LuftVG), planned the software integration and outlined possible applications in different temperature zones.

The drones will not be used during regular work hours but will take off for the test runs mainly at weekends. Tests are carried out in the dry-storage and chilled areas to gain a more accurate picture of the effects on the drones at different temperature ranges. The flights in Bochum still require manual intervention. In a later expansion stage, the aircraft will automatically glide through the warehouse and record the stocks according to predefined models.

The results of the first test are still undergoing an in-depth analysis. Another test, which is expected to occur in the summer, should provide further insights.

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