Supply chain management is the supervision of various aspects of a company. These aspects include materials and information as well as finances as these travel from the supplier to the manufacturer and then to the wholesaler to the retailer and finally to the consumer. The management of this supply chain involves both the coordination and integration of these flows within and also among the companies. In order for the SCM to be effective, it is essential that the inventory be reduced. However, in order to maintain this status it is also essential that products are always available when they are required. There are several methods for making SCM efficient and the use of driverless vehicles is one of them. Driverless vehicles are increasingly seen as one of the supply chain management solutions.
SCM flows are divided into three main flows and these are:
- Product flow
- Information flow and
- Finances flow
Product flow involves the movement of the goods from the supplier to the customer. It also involves the flow of the returns from customers to the supplier. Today driverless vehicles are being used to boost SCM. This does sound like the stuff science fiction is made of but it is true that increasingly supply chain services and solutions include the use of remotely piloted vehicles especially in operations involving freight. The reasons are not far to seek. Remotely piloted vehicles provide higher energy efficiency and speed while ensuring safety and these are now being used all over the world.
Autonomous Vehicle Technology
The revolutionary use of this new technology has been gradual. But it is obvious that this technology is already bringing about great improvements at different points within the process of the supply chain. It is therefore quite common to find different participants in SCM inducting autonomous vehicles in diverse processes that help prove the necessity of the change. It is fair to say that there is a growing confidence in the use of this new technology.
The Details of Usage
Warehouse operations are definitely the easiest as well as the safest point of entry for these driverless vehicles. The environment within the warehouse is constrained and traffic can be strictly governed quite easily. It is also fairly easy to assess and evaluate the results of such a novel introduction.
The second important feature concerns the different technology models that have been deployed while improving these autonomous vehicles for use in warehouses. The early mechanisms for guidance pertained to the use of metal floor tape and the radio wire while the more recent autonomous vehicles use different types of camera and lasers that are mounted on these vehicles. It has been found that this kind of equipment provides more flexibility. With the help of these the autonomous vehicle is able to create a 3-dimensional map of the warehouse environment while adapting each time an object is moved or some new ones are added. It is confirmed that this form of technology is not only safer since the navigation is very accurate but it is also more efficient from the use of energy point of view and the planning of the route is also more accurate.
The third important feature involves the use of these vehicles in picking orders by roaming the various shelves in a warehouse while putting together the order. This kind of fulfilling of orders is not only faster and cheaper; it is also more accurate when compared with human operations. Robotic vehicles are now known to collect a complete shelf and transport it to a central place where the order is built.
These robotic vehicles can also be used in the yard adjacent to the warehouse. You will find similar areas in airports and wharfs as well as seaports besides warehouses where SCM can profitably use these vehicles such as robotic trucks and forklifts. Germany, for instance uses large number of these autonomous vehicles in the transportation of containers within wharfs and warehouses using technology such as object detection both in the vehicles and the transponders that are embedded in the ground.