Your browser is out of date, for the best web viewing experience visit Browse Happy to upgrade your browser today.

Cycle Counting

Improving Inventory Accuracy and Employee Safety with Computer Vision Enabled Cycle Counting

One of the most important KPIs to any warehouse is high inventory accuracy, and cycle counting is the most effective process for achieving this goal.   This process is so critical that 3PLs are contractually obligated to conduct cycle counting at agreed upon intervals. However, for most warehouses, cycle counting comes with a high cost including excessive amounts of man-hours, picking and put-away delays, and even the risk of employee injury during high bay cycle counting.  Warehouse storage has become more vertical, and goods can be stored over 30’ off the ground.  Auditing inventory this high is both dangerous and unnerving for designated employees.  The risks associated with high bay cycle counting contributes to incomplete and inaccurate inventory reporting.

Cycle count automation for warehouse inventory
Cycle count automation improves inventory accuracy and reduces labor requirements

The Evolution of Inventory Cycle Count Automation

Cycle counting is a critical process for all warehouses, but it’s extremely time-consuming and often results in shutting down aisles or complete areas of warehouses, interfering with picking and put-away events.  Even with regimented cycle counting, warehouses and 3PLs still achieve sub-par inventory accuracy levels.  In 2018, Vimaan was the first company to introduce warehouse drones to conduct automated cycle counting in the warehouse for full production environments.  Over the next several years, Vimaan revolutionized the notion of automated inventory cycle counting by capturing full images of goods on shelves and providing information that goes far beyond barcode reading.  Vimaan’s cycle counting solution includes full, high resolution, image “reconstruction” of the face of the shelf, including barcode reading, label text reading, item dimensioning, empty bin reporting, damage detection, discrepancy reporting against the WMS, and location and inventory search features.   Vimaan is live with its solution at multiple Fortune 500 facilities, including some of the top 3PLs.  In the process, Vimaan has also dramatically reduced the need for associates to perform cycle counting tasks.

Until now, Vimaan has exclusively used warehouse drones to capture inventory information from shelves that can be as high as 35’, and we have flown more missions and conducted more inventory location scans using drones than any other solution provider.  But while there is unquestionable value in the data generated by sensors and cameras mounted on these drones and our approach to cycle counting, Vimaan has also gained significant insights into the shortcomings of using drones to conduct cycle counting in the warehouse, including:

  • Limited battery life (even with auto-charging) necessitates additional warehouse drones to expedite cycle count missions increasing the overall costs of the solution.
  • While Vimaan has never received a single incident report, there is an inherent risk in having objects flying around warehouse associates.
  • Drone flights occupy aisles, preventing and delaying put-away and picking task execution.

To maintain the richness, comprehensiveness and other advantages of Vimaan’s cycle counting approach, and to eliminate the downsides of using drones to accomplish this goal,  Vimaan has engineered StorTRACK, an even more affordable, safer, and faster solution than any other product on the market.

Cycle Count Automation Implementation with StorTRACK

StorTRACK cycle count automation
StorTRACK – Cycle Counting Done Right

The move to Vimaan computer vision has addressed the cycle counting pains for several leading global 3PLs.   As opposed to enlisting dedicated associates to conduct manual inventory audits, StorTRACK solutions allow for more proactive auditing and reporting of inventory status.  Maneuvered by pre-existing warehouse MHE, StorTRACK captures inventory status as high as the MHE can reach.  3PLs and warehouses operating StorTRACK have reported faster and much more accurate cycle count results.  The improved efficiencies and accuracies achieved with StorTRACK have allowed these customers to reduce cycle count associated labor by up to 75%.

How Cycle Counting with StoTRACK Works

Watch reliable cycle count automation in action
WATCH – StorTRACK the fastest and most reliable automated cycle counting.

StorTRACK is an industrial-strength sled equipped with an array of computer vision sensors that is handled and maneuvered by pre-existing material handling equipment, including forklifts and order pickers. Warehouse mapping for StorTRACK is only required at the ground level, greatly reducing set-up time and allowing the cycle count solution to be up and running in under a week. Capturing inventory from the floor to the ceiling, StorTRACK processes data with 100% accuracy and up to 10X faster than traditional methods (and 5X faster than a drone).  StorTRACK safely functions alongside pick and put activities performed in congested warehouses. Additional benefits include:

• More flexible, robust, and powerful hardware (no weight or aerodynamic design constraints)

•With a battery life that is 24X greater than the drone – StorTRACK substantially improves the cycle count coverage per mission.

• Inventory can be captured “on demand” – for audits and spot checks. Even for warehouse with a single cycle count resource, StorTRACK delivers the fastest ROI.

Improved inventory accuracy with automated cycle counting
StorTRACK is easily raised to scan and capture pallets cases and eaches in under 20 seconds

Easy to use, the warehouse associates simply pick up the StorTRACK with an MHE, start on their pre-defined location (as instructed by an intuitive and easy to use UI), and then follow instructions to complete the cycle count. As StorTRACK is carried down an aisle, lights illuminate the stored inventory and the computer vision powered camera suite captures barcode data, reads label text, inspects for damages and even identifies inventory in the wrong location. Additionally, StorTRACK reports on open bays to help warehouses maximize the use of all available storage space. No other inventory cycle counting solution reports on inventory status as quickly or as accurately as StorTRACK.

No barcode scanning, no picking, getting out of the cab, etc. required. Just drive to the specified locations and raise and lower the lift on the MHE. Once completed, the warehouse associate returns and plugs the sled into the charger and the system auto charges and gets ready for the next task.

Cycle count the entire warehouse bin

Contents of the entire storage bay are captured by StorTRACK including pallet labels, barcodes, label text, shelve locations and even reads through shrink wrap.

Cycle Counting Capabilities

Automated cycle counting from the floor to the highest shelf
StorTRACK scan inventory as high as the MHE can reach

High Bay Inventory Capture

  • Utilizing existing warehouse MHE, StorTRACK reads and captures inventory data as high as your MHE can reach.
  • Warehouse associates remain on the ground and safe from potential falls.
  • More than just barcodes, StorTRACK captures the entire content of warehouse shelves, delivering highly accurate inventory and rack status to the WMS.

Barcode scanning and OCR text reading  allows for the entire capture of inventory labels
Vimaan reads all label attributes including barcodes and human readable text

Complete Label Capture

Other automated cycle count solutions only scan barcodes, while Vimaan reads the entire label:

  • Detects labels, isolates the text or barcode field(s) of interest to the customer.
  • Reads 1D/2D barcodes and human readable text (SKUs, lot #s, destinations, dates, logos, etc.).
  • Highlights missing or unreadable labels.
  • Isolates the label(s) and text or barcode field(s) of interest to customers.
  • Reads labels through shrink wrap (as long as label is readable to the human eye).
High density inventory cycle counting
Automated inventory cycle counting with StorTRACK provides complete inventory visibility including dense storage scans

High Density Storage Scanning

Effective automated cycle count requires the ability to scan more than a single pallet label, StorTRACK features allow for complete capture of pallet contents in one pass:

  • Four embedded computer vision cameras provide StorTRACK with a 4′ field of view.
  • Scanning includes barcode reading, text reading, item counting and even damage detection.
  • Vimaan image stitching capabilities assembles scans into one complete picture of the pallet and your inventory.
Very narrow aisle (VNA) cycle counting
The improved space utilization of VNA comes with a cost and often that includes limited space to support cycle counting

Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) Cycle Count Scanning

Designed in the shape of a pallet, StorTRACK operates in the narrowest of aisle environments.  Equipped with 4 cameras and embedded LED lighting, StorTRACK cycle counts the entire contents of a pallet in just one pass, even for high density storage.  It does not matter how many items are stored on a shelf, StorTRACK will scan 50 items as fast it scans one! Challenges with VNA cycle count automation are no longer a challenge for warehouses that use StorTRACK.

Automated cycle counting to support improved warehouse space utilization
Beyond label reading Vimaan identifies opportunities to maximize available storage space

Improved Warehouse Utilization

Beyond label reading, Vimaan identifies opportunities to maximize available storage space.

  • High bay analysis with StorTRACK aids in optimizing warehouse space in bins high off the ground.
  • Identifies packages with missing or damaged labels
  • Identifies items in the wrong location and other anomolies
Visualize automated cycle count data with online reporting
ViewDECK delivers inventory truth and insights to warehouse management

Inventory Visualization

Reconciles the inventory truth from the warehouse floor and shelves with WMS:

  • Near real-time reporting resolves WMS data with actual data captured by StorTRACK.
  • Search and find any stored inventory in ViewDECK, the web-based application from Vimaan.
  • Creates a digital twin of the entire warehouse.
Automated cycle counting supports thorough environmental reporting including damage detection
Sensors also collect data on damages and other anomalies

Environmental Reporting

  • Identifies open bins to improve warehouse space utilization
  • Detects broken pallets, shelves and other warehouse hazards
  • Highlights items placed in the wrong locations

Featured Inventory Cycle Count Process

Image stitching delivers high resolution images of all goods captured during automated cycle counting

Inventory Image Stitching

All images captured by Vimaan computer vision sensors are automatically stored in photo archives for future and ongoing analysis. Vimaan combines these images together providing 360 views of shelves, pallets and packages for easy access and analysis. Learn more about inventory image stitching.

wAReHOUSE Cycle count automation guide

Learn how other warehouses have improved their inventory accuracies to over 99%, while reducing cycle count headcount.


Inventory Cycle Counting Resources

Ready to learn more?