The Infosys global supply chain management blog enables leaner supply chains through process and IT related interventions. Discuss the latest trends and solutions across the supply chain management landscape.


July 12, 2016

Be ready for the drone invasion @ warehouse!

We have seen a burst of new technologies in supply chain area. Drones, advance of robots in workplaces, Internet of things (IoT) are becoming a reality. Time is ripe to induce more technology into core operations of supply chain like warehouse operations, yard operations and so on. Here I would like to discuss on how to capitalize advances made in drone technology can add value in warehouse operations. Drones are also personal interest of mine as we had experimented with a small drone in our home few years back.

Traditional warehouse managers have always been looking for ways to improve productivity of the operations and people in warehouse. Drones can significantly improve warehouse operations in the area of inventory management, yard management and safety of the warehouse. Drones can be put into use in
1. Annual stocking: In a warehouse the storage locations and pallets are bar coded. Drone which has a scanner can scan the location to confirm its position then scan the pallet label to confirm the item and quantity. Frequency is yearly and involves the entire warehouse.
2. Cycle counting: Its similar to annual stocking as the operation involves going to location and confirming the item and quantity. Cycle counting involves fewer locations in a warehouse and the frequency is few times a day.
3. Track Trailers in Yard: In large yards its time consuming to identify trailers, drones can be of big help here. They can sent out for "search operations" in a yard and using the camera in the drone operators can hunt for trailers.

Pros for using Drones:
• Increase productivity in physical counting and cycle counting. Productivity can be improved by a factor of 2X or 3X.
• Overcome safety challenges, as taking physical counting in high rack locations involves using both forklifts and humans which increase chances of accidents.
• Drones can perform the work faster and also be more accurate.
• Drones can also be used for searching and finding inventory.
• Drone can also be used for searching trailers / trucks vehicles in large yards of the warehouse.

What type of warehouse can be early adapters for Drones?
Retail, Third party logistics warehouses are ideal for Drones usage. These warehouse are typically large sites, with high rack locations which are bar coded. The warehouse layout is like typical street block with aisles and locations marked.

4 Steps to put Drones in Action:
In order for the warehouse to take advantage of drones following things are necessary
1. For Drones to move independently within the 4 walls of warehouse, the key requirement is to have physical warehouse map with details of all the aisles, rack locations and other details.
For this the crucial input is to have warehouse map which has the co-ordinates of each location. A geodesic survey of the inbound and outbound areas of the warehouse needs to be done. Warehouse map is created with x, y, z co-ordinates of all the locations. Site survey can be accomplished by civil surveyors by working in non-peak or non-work days in 6 to 8 working days. Warehouse physical map is fed into drone software. Drone can navigate using the warehouse co-ordinates. In my previous project implementing Locanis WMS we had enabled Forklift guidance system in a large warehouse.
For Indoor referencing  to increase the positional accuracy of the drones we can use beacons. The way I envisage this is we place beacons in aisles and pathways of warehouses. So whenever drones pass these beacons it will publish the exact positional co-ordinates which can be then be used for navigation.
2. Drone needs to be equipped with a scanner which can scan various bar codes stickers of different bar code standards like EAN, UCC.
3. Once the drone scans the data it needs to communicate to the WMS system or a custom software which can capture the location and inventory.
4. Drones need to communicate using a different frequency, as warehouse have other equipment's like forklift terminals, Hand held terminals, RFID devices using Wi-Fi.

Challenges for Drone usage:
• Drones can be used for inventory management functions in Full pallet areas. Using them in Carousels, multi deep pallet locations, Pigeons holes are going to be challenge.
• Warehouses which do primarily Cross docking, Break pack are also not suitable for drone operations. As the inventory is fast moving and mostly in ground locations.
• In order for drones to work in warehouse operations we need to have robust "anti-avoidance" technology. This is an important factor when drones and humans have to work in the same environment.

4 steps for inducting drones  as discussed above can form the basis of inducting drones into warehouse operations. In the near future we would be seeing more drones in warehouse working along with humans. Pretty soon I think we will see "Drone operator" as one of the job titles in warehouses across the world. Welcome to the world of warehouse drones!

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January 18, 2015

The Expert Talks- Sustainability


 About The Expert


Vijayaraghavan Krishnamurthy is a Principal Consultant working with Digital and Integration Services at Infosys. Vijay has worked extensively across areas spanning Supply Chain Planning and Execution. He is based out of Hyderabad, India and is closely associated with the ECO group at Infosys, working on sustainable practices. Read on as Vijay shares with us his insights on Sustainability in the context of Supply Chain Management.


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November 17, 2010

Apple-Foxconn: Strategic partnership or a hard-to-get-out-of relationship?

It all starts with a desire to forge a long term partnership. The supplier impresses you (the customer) with his ability to do what it takes to exceed your expectations - ramping up volumes at a push of a button; reducing time-to-market; pushing cost down or not flinching to make capital investments just so that you get the desired quality....and then comes a day when you realize that the long term partnership has morphed into a dependency that you cannot get out of; at-least not without a painful divorce proceeding. Was Apple in this frame of mind when Foxconn attracted a spate of negative publicity recently?    

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August 31, 2010

Neodymium: Toyota's pain and China's gain

For years China has been looked down upon by global manufacturers in US, Japan and Europe as merely "Low-cost" source. The global manufacturers had looked at China to supply something that is non-strategic and only valued by the price tag of the item. There was no emphasis on the uniqueness of China in terms of its source. It was felt that something that is easy to develop, but is price sensitive, can be transported to China and get developed there. This way the transportation changes and additional inventory costs due to longer lead times, would be offset by China's low cost of production. But Neodymium and a host of other Rare Earth Elements (REE) are going to complete change how the world views China. These REEs, the essential "protozoa" of 21st Century products, has China in the driver's seat to fuel growth. From Hybrid cars, Electric Vehicles, Mobile phones, Laptops, portable x-ray units to missiles.... all depend on REEs. And China has a 97% monopoly in production of these elements.

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August 13, 2010

How to Control Proliferation of SKUs?

One of the current biggest challenge faced in supply chain management is explosion of number of SKUs. It is very common scene that total number of SKUs are 50 to 100 times the number of "Real" product offerings. By "Real" product, I mean, a product which customer buy to satisfy some of their needs. SKU is something which is created out of "Real" product so that it can be sold to a customer in a specific market place. There are many reasons for which multiple SKUs are created from same "real" Product. Some of them are listed below.

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March 31, 2010

Human Factor in Supply Chain Risk management

Supply chain risk management professionals have been designing and developing tools and techniques for capturing data, conducting an assessment and then taking mitigation actions. There have been complex mathematical formulae and statistical estimation techniques, as well as detailed business rules for any decision support system for supply chain risk management. There would be enlightened debates among the academics and the researchers about the distribution algorithms to be adopted and the forecasting models to be deployed for define an accurate picture of the future. They would enable classifying the risk sources and the risk drivers to come out with the right assessment of risk. But in this milieu of mathematics, statistics, rules and regulations one critical aspect is given the back seat…. the human factor. It is rightly said the risk appetite of an enterprise is inverse of the risk averseness of its decision makers.

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November 8, 2009

Supply Chain 007

Suspecting supply chain waste

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October 14, 2009

“Bye Bye CPFR; Welcome CFT-R”…..say the Supply Chain managed organizations

Manufacturing and retail enterprises have been working since the middle of the last century on collaborations in supply chain. CPFR (Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment) had emerged as the basic mantra for success for organizations thriving on supply chain to drive efficiencies and synchronized operations. But this supreme position of CPFR is being challenged by another buzz-word, vastly accentuated by the economic downturn. This is “risk management”. Suddenly you see everyone talking about risk. Interestingly, in risk management again the complete planning-to-execution-to-monitoring cycle requires collaboration across various business functions. This led to the need for the next generation mantra – CFT-R (Cross Functional Team for Risk).

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October 12, 2009

Supply Chain Security Risk

In a recent report from AMR on Supply Chain Risk Trends, supply chain security topped the list of the risks which have seen the biggest growth of the year. This is indicative of the problems faced by global supply chains involving long lead times and transits. Economic recovery seems to have reduced the risk perception around volatile energy / transportation costs and Supplier failure.

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August 26, 2009

Supply Chain “Proverbs-to-ponder”


Efforts for sustaining supply chain benefits have been under fire. Business requires supply chain programs for implementing their strategies. Variability, especially uncertainties in operations dim the chances for even the best solutions to return results in a consistent manner. Sustainability, is taking center-stage for CXOs and I see them scramble for ideas that have demonstrated results.

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August 5, 2009

How risky is present Supply Chain risk assessment?

Assessment of Supply Chain risk is gradually evolving as the critical core competency for organizations struggling to cement their footprint. Most organizations especially the public listed enterprises have developed ways and means to identify enterprise risks and develop strategies for mitigating the same. But when it has come to supply chain risk assessment, the vision is blurred by parochial operational silos which deploy separate techniques for risk assessment. Even the spectrum of supply chain risk is limited to supply and distribution functions. The “Big Picture” image gets lost and this leads to huge risk of erroneous prioritization, procrastination and delayed action. One of the major causes of this scenario is the challenge of a system in place which enables a “comprehensive risk assessment”.

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June 1, 2009

Fearing supplier bankruptcy? Take the steady steps for procurement collaboration with your competition

In my previous blog I had touched on the “Why” aspect of a supplier platform strategy to avert the impact of supplier bankruptcy. In the market similar trends are taking place where manufacturers are coming together to develop a common procurement platform for sourcing from a common supplier pool. Such a step should be fraught with a lot of caution, as it is not an omnibus solution. Instead of just hurrying up the myriad steps to reach the goal and announce the collaboration success as media hype, a step-by-step approach with attaining stability after each step is necessary. That is why you will see a lot of “yes-no-yes-no…..” iterations in the media about a lot of superficial collaborations being floated. Probably that is the reason you would hardly see much in the media about such platform strategies already in place among many Japanese manufacturers, as they feel that media announcements will only follow once a critical mass is attained.

Here I explain “How” manufacturers are trying to solve the complex puzzle of the platform strategy.

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March 30, 2009

Supply Risk – Increasing importance in a weak economy

In my last post on this blog I had talked about Supply Chain being a strategic lever in a declining economy. I had indicated that one of the key areas for companies to focus was in managing Supply Risk in a robust manner to accommodate shrinking capacities and supply failures.  I think that Supply Risk is a fairly complex variable which is not always looked at unless an enterprise faces “supply failure”. In this posting I wanted to try and disaggregate Supply Risk to a degree and provide a framework to think about it.

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March 23, 2009

Intellectual Property Infringement – One of the Top Supply Chain Risk

A very interesting article titled  Managing the Biggest Supply Chain Risk of All: Constant Change by Noha Tohamy of AMR Research rightly points out – that the biggest supply chain risk of all time is constant change.

The article also mentions that although being a manufacturing hub of the world, China contributes to the most risk to global supply chains, 9 out of top 15 risks. The top of the list is Intellectual property infringement followed by quality failure risk and security breach issues.

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Supplier Bankruptcy – A Real Risk during Recession

Recession is here. Slower demand, shrunk liquidity and increasing pressure on cost is here. Auto industry has suffered from severe decrease in the demand which has resulted into steep production cuts. Suppliers get paid 45 to 60 days after delivering parts, and this may cause a wave of failures in March and April, when the nearly total shutdown in U.S. auto production at the start of the year starts to hit their balance sheets hard. To other industries also, recession presents increased credit risk and a very real risk of supplier insolvency. In my opinion, supplier bankruptcy causes two different kind of risks.

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November 18, 2008

Where do I start Supply Chain Risk Management in my supply chain?

Implementing Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) is as much about changing the mindset of people, as much it is state-of-the-art tools and processes. I firmly believe that if every person operating within the supply chain is made aware of the risk associated with each decision, half the distance to success is traversed. Ability to foresee and assess the impact of the risk is probably the toughest thing to instill across supply chain, rightly so, for multiple reasons.

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November 13, 2008

Five 'I's' of Supply Chain Visibility

While reading a thought provoking blog on a speech by David Allen, famous author of “Getting Things Done”, I could not help but find a corollary between capabilities, what he calls as five “I’s” , of  personal productivity software and an ideal supply chain visibility solution. A day in life of an executive is a quite interesting corollary for Supply Chain. There are constraints, demanding customers, reluctant suppliers and unforeseen meetings/happenings that continuously disturb the meticulously planned schedules. Executives pay a lot of attention to their personal planning gadgets and hire great assistants who help them maximize their day’s worth. Just goes to explain how much would be the worth of a supply chain visibility solution that allows the supply chain managers similar control over their processes.

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October 3, 2008

Globalization trends in Supply Chain … Its just getting riskier! Are we seeing a turn-around in supply chain thinking?

Reasons such as low cost of resources and labour and favorable exchange rates have driven globalization of supply chains with many manufacturing and retail companies moving their sourcing strategies eastward for several years now. Well, do we see the paradign change now? The venerable Supply Chain Management Review is carrying out a survey ( on US becoming a low cost country sourcing hub! And why not? The last few years have seen the risky side of low cost country sourcing from China and the far east catch much business and media attention. From toys to milk products, multiple product recalls and severe brand reputation damage are taking their toll (Reputation and Financial Damage) and are forcing companies to rethink their sourcing strategies.

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September 1, 2008

Supply Chain Risk Management

Attended two interesting conference last month. “Next Generation Manufacturing Supply Chain and Digital Economy Research Collaboration” – organized by by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, UK and European Union. Another one was “Supply Chain World – Asia Pacific Conference” organized by Supply Chain Council. Following were the ‘hot’ topics among supply chain practitioners and academicians.

• Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM)
• Green Supply Chain
• Skill shortage in Supply Chain

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