Inside Unmanned Systems

DEC 2017 - JAN 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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AIR INNOVATIONS 56 unmanned systems inside December 2017/January 2018 dered outside the front door at one point) but now the team is working on improving the user interface and the way the robot interacts with customers, said Bob Graham, BevMo!'s senior vice president and chief information officer. If a customer comes into the store looking for a red wine, the system can bring the product up on the screen and then take that customer directly to the bottle, offering details about the wine along the way, Graham said. Customers can also ask questions about a product, with the artificial intelligence (AI) engine running in the cloud providing the answer—similar to what you might experience with Alexa or Siri. The system also can help associates locate a specific item to bring to a customer, improving the experience in both cases. To successfully implement this system, BevMo! needed a quality wireless infrastruc- ture, which was already in place, as well as a strong master data platform for the system to access, Graham said. "It's really about the AI platform," he said. "Content management is a big piece of this. For instance pairings—what goes great with this wine, what's the source of the wine, who creat- ed the wine? All of those things cause the cus- tomer to engage, and if we're asking questions back and forth through a device like this, you need great content so you can have a more in- depth conversation with the customer. They'll buy the product they're looking for and maybe an additional product or service because we're providing value." While the beverage store's main focus is on using the system to improve customer service, the robot also handles inventory management tasks, Graham said. The AI engine learns about a product and its location and then interacts with a manager's workbench, he said, and gives the manager vari- ous tasks that need to be attended to in the store. Associates can access an iPad app to identify these tasks. For instance, the robot scans the cold area in the afternoon to make sure there is prod- uct for customers who want to buy a chilled wine or beer after work. The robot then sends a mes- sage to the workbench to communicate which slots need to be replenished. It also sends a photo of the shelf tag. Once the beverages are stocked in the proper slots, the associate can mark the task as done and move on to the next item on the list. "We're able to think about the scheduling process the same way we would schedule an associate for various tasks," Graham said. "The cooler is a big deal. At the end of the day, if we provide better service it might lead to one more bottle in the basket." Back in the Warehouse There's also plenty being done to automate warehouses, making the process more efficient and leading to better accuracy, Litchford said. Amazon's efforts are the most publicized, but other retailers are starting to follow suit. One retailer has totally automated the store pick and ship, which is the process of locating ordered products and then preparing them for shipping, in its distribution center for both store and cus- tomer orders, he said. This enhances shipping speeds and also helps improve order accuracy. Photo courtesy of MIT Media Lab/Fadel Adib and Jimmy Day for any MIT. THE EXPECTATION FOR QUICK DELIVERY When customers order a product online, they now expect to get that product in two or three days, which has put a stress on the system and supply chain itself, PINC CEO Matt Yearling said. That time period will continue to get shorter and shorter, making automation and inventory management even more critical. Both help improve order accuracy and effi ciency. Today, inventory accuracy in warehouses is at about 90 percent, but that falls to 60 percent in the stores, he said. These systems can help signifi cantly increase those numbers. The RFly drone from MIT scans and locates items in warehouses.

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