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The Maintenance Management Blog

February 18, 2016

Why A Robot May Soon Be Delivering Your Packages


Unless you have been hiding under a news-deafening rock for the past year, you have no doubt heard about the "next big thing" in delivery: drones. While most of the people who have ever flown a drone will tell you that delivering a pizza with a drone is probably not as easy as it seems, it may actually be one of those out-of-nowhere ideas that come to fruition. But are tech gurus making things too complicated? Aren"t we forgetting a little helper that could actually make automated deliveries a little simpler and safer?

As technology continues to expand, it gets more trendy. Remember the days when only rich Wall Street guys had those giant brick cell phones? Now everyone has a mobile device glued to the side of their face 16 hours a day. The same goes for social media websites. There was a time when only hip rappers and sad music lovers would log in on sites like MySpace. Now, everyone"s favorite grandmother is tweeting and liking their way into oblivion.

While tech becoming a part of popular culture is a great thing, sometimes, the desire to use the latest and greatest can make us overlook simpler solutions. Drones are fun and exciting, and seeing them buzz overhead with Amazon Prime packages would no doubt be cool, but would it be simple, perhaps, to just use another sci-fi marvel to get the job done? That's right: I am talking about robots.

If you have ever worked in the delivery business, you know well how quickly the delivery portion can become a cost center. From insurance fees, truck maintenance, and rising gas costs to accidents and injuries, the delivery business is fraught with accounting and legal nightmares.

Incorporating drones can help reduce these issues for certain; however, they introduce their own cache of problems. For starters, drone regulation is still in its infancy. Secondly, imagine a sky full of flying delivery robots whizzing by overhead. How do you manage traffic and avoid having a pizza drone crash into a pillow-delivery drone and covering some poor citizen in cheese and feathers?

Safety is a concern for both traditional delivery and drone delivery as well, as is theft. You have no doubt ordered something from a company only to have it left on your front doorstep, un-signed-for. Any schmoe could walk up and steal it off of your porch. What would stop someone from chucking a rock at a drone carrying your copy of Star Wars Battlefront?

While robots are not the perfect solution, they do hold promise. For starters, they are much safer. They move in much the same fashion as someone delivering a package on foot (that is, at a slow pace). They could have built-in detectors that "sense" people in front of them and video cameras to help monitor any potential thief. If any unauthorized person were to try to steal your package, the robot could send a request out to local law enforcement for some backup.

Or you could just make them like RoboCop and solve two problems at the same time!

Robots would help cut down costs in a number of ways as well. They could reduce gas costs (especially if they were solar-powered), maintenance costs (it is easier to maintain a small robot than a diesel-guzzling truck), and most likely insurance fees as well.

The negative side to robot delivery services would be the fact that you would need a crew of professionals trained in robot maintenance to maintain them. Keeping spare parts for robots on hand, storing instruction manuals and vendor information, and actually keeping track of where all of your delivery-bots are at any given point in time could also be a challenge.

But if you think about it, maybe these challenges are no different than the ones you face today. After all, we all need some way to track assets, issue work orders, and track maintenance. We normally employ a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) for this task in a regular environment; why couldn't the delivery industry do the same for their horde of new robot delivery slaves?

it's something to think about!


Lisa Richards

About the Author – Lisa Richards

Lisa Richards is an experienced professional in the field of industrial management and is an avid blogger about maintenance management systems and productivity innovation. Richards' undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering opened the door for her initial career path with a Midwest-based agricultural implement manufacturer with global market reach. Over a span of 10 years, Lisa worked her way through various staff leadership positions in the manufacturing process until reaching the operations manager level at a construction and forestry equipment facility. Lisa excelled at increasing productivity while maintaining or lowering operating budgets for her plant sites.

An Illinois native, Lisa recently returned to her suburban Chicago North Shore hometown to raise her family. Lisa has chosen to be active in her community and schools while her two young girls begin their own journey through life. Richards has now joined the MAPCON team as an educational outreach writer in support of their efforts to inform maintenance management specialists about the advantages in marrying advanced maintenance software with cutting-edge facility and industrial management strategies.

Filed under: CMMS AND DRONES, DRONE DELIVERY, drones — Lisa Richards on February 18, 2016