Deploying a state-of-the-art warehouse management system (WMS) can enhance operational efficiency in a large warehouse or distribution center. Acting as a central point for inventory managers, a WMS provides a real-time view of the warehoused stock. While the velocity of global supply chains continues to rise, most WMS implementations still rely on manually collected inventory data; the latter is often out-of-date after a short period.
E-commerce trends like same-day delivery, fast fashion, and fast-moving inventory have necessitated the availability of real-time inventory information to streamline inventory processes and meet customer SLAs. This can be easily achieved by integrating WMS integration with automated inventory robots that scan front-facing barcodes, QR codes and alphanumeric labels on pallets and cases stored in racks.
WMS Integration with Automated Warehouse Robots
Automated inventory scanning solutions must be integrated with warehouse management systems, thus augmenting existing inventory practices without disrupting operations. For example, data collected by inventory drones flying autonomously inside warehouse aisles should seamlessly flow to the WMS, automatically and in real-time.
Such integration between autonomous drones and WMS can result in rich inventory insights that assist sales, customer service, operations, and finance in decision-making. With high-speed, high-fidelity data collection using drone cameras, WMS inventory data can be augmented with live video streams and location-wise image archives.
How Does WMS integration Work?
WMS Integration is made possible using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). An API is a standard that presents the data and information in a specific and detailed manner, thus enabling end-users to access the relevant data – easily and securely.
Systems that need access to data in the WMS must use the API and request such data in a very specific language, unique to each application.
Thus, an API is a middleman of sorts, accepting requests and, assuming the request is allowed, returning the data to the system that requested it, in this case, the WMS.
Intelligent automation software with well-supported, well-documented, well-tested APIs can be integrated with any WMS by closely working with the respective IT teams. This contributes to a far smoother, quicker integration period, while also not disrupting the company’s preexisting WMS automation processes.
The advantages of an API-driven inventory drone system go beyond providing real-time inventory information. By storing multiple images of each barcode scanned, drone solutions can create reliable evidence to be used during regulatory audits. Moreover, such accurate location-wise and date-time pallet information can help warehouse managers better predict future demand, space utilization and resource requirements.
With the power of autonomy, warehouse managers can better utilize their time and derive richer insights from aerially collected data. Seamless integration with the WMS, and real-time updates during drone missions, can help stakeholders improve operating margins with relatively short payback periods.
Aerial Inventory Scans
The figure below illustrates the typical workflow for deploying drones to scan front-facing barcodes on pallets stored in warehouse racks.
The operator sets up a mission using the FlytWare dashboard by simply selecting the aisles, racks, or locations to be scanned. This is the only human intervention during the whole process. The inventory drones take-off autonomously, enter the selected aisles, and scan the locations selected for the mission. As the drones collect relevant inventory data such as barcodes and pictures of pallets or cases, FlytWare creates a real-time digital twin of the racked inventory.
Such WMS integration with the FlytWare solution creates the ability to perform instant variance analysis between the latest inventory data collected by the drone(s) and the WMS data. This comparison logic can be color-coded to illustrate the variances in the operator dashboard.
For example, green color for a location implies that there is an exact match between the pallet barcodes as per the WMS data and those scanned by the drone.
On the other hand, a location marked in orange is one where the WMS expects a pallet barcode, but the drone did not scan any during the most recent flight.
The logic of variance analysis, color schemes, and exception reports can be fully customized.
Once the mission is complete, there are typically 3 ways in which integration can be done with various WMS like Manhattan WMS, Oracle, SAP, and other others.
- Manually export FlytWare inventory data in the form of CSV/XML files, for import into WMS
- Manually import WMS inventory data in the form of CSV/XML files, for variance analysis via the FlytWare dashboard
- Direct access using ODBC/APIs: Automatically push the data into (or pull the data from) the WMS after every inventory scanning mission.
Moreover, the interface between a WMS and the FlytWare platform can enable the WMS to automatically schedule drone missions, to enable 100% end-to-end autonomy in inventory scans.
If you are a WMS/ERP provider and you would like to explore the possibility of partnering with us, feel free to reach out. For more details: FlytWare Partner.