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The World’s Largest Brands Are Using Inventory Accuracy and Yard Automation to Fight COVID-19 Chaos

Amanda Correa
by Amanda Correa on Mar 24, 2020 09:43:29 AM

In an uncertain world where supply chain disruption is becoming a certainty, here’s how good inventory management enabled by automation can help companies gain the supply chain visibility they need to keep the wheels turning.

When the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) responded to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus in late-2019, the outbreak’s far-reaching consequences couldn’t have been predicted. Now here we are, dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 around the world.

Whether they’ve sent their workforces home to work remotely, scaled back their operations, or scrambled to find alternative supply sources, organizations across all industries are implementing new measures to offset the impacts of COVID-19. A moving target right now, just the extent of the short- and long-term effects on organizations and individuals over the coming months remains to be seen.

“The impact is significant on the U.S. economy. Already, some economic forecasters are expecting a decline in gross domestic product during the second quarter. What we don’t know is how long this health crisis will last,” the American Trucking Association’s Bob Costello told Transport Topics. “If it is short-lived, we might be able to skirt a recession. But if this continues for the next few months, it is likely the economy will contract for at least a quarter.”

Maintaining the Right Inventory Balance
Companies that didn’t have good inventory management processes, to begin with, could quickly find themselves either struggling to keep up with demand (think toilet paper, surgical masks, and hand sanitizer) or overstocked on items that customers aren’t thinking about as they funnel energy into fighting the pandemic.

“To guard against disruption, some retailers hold safety stock or excess raw materials,” Sourcing Journal states. “But amassing inputs or inventory puts them at risk for markdowns or lost investments if merchandise goes out of style or materials deteriorate before they can be used for production.”

According to the Institute for Supply Management, 75% of companies report supply chain disruptions in some capacity due to coronavirus-related transportation restrictions, and more than 80% believe that their organization will experience some impact because of COVID-19 disruptions. One in six (16%) companies report adjusting revenue targets downward an average of 5.6 percent due to the coronavirus.

“The story the data tells is that companies are faced with a lengthy recovery to normal operations in the wake of the virus outbreak,” said ISM’s Thomas W. Derry. “For a majority of U.S. businesses, lead times have doubled, and that shortage is compounded by the shortage of air and ocean freight options to move product to the United States — even if they can get orders filled.”

“It’s a War Out There”
As DigitalCommerce360 reports, companies ranging from MSC Industrial Supply to are taking extra steps to source inventory and fulfill orders of what their customers need. “It’s a war out there,” Vic Hanna, CEO of told the publication.

Now more than ever, digital technologies for identifying, locating, and moving inventory are top-of-mind for supply chain executives. As global supply chain disruptions happen faster and more often, automated operations and increased inventory accuracy across the enterprise and distribution networks are critical for minimizing risk and keeping operations running.

“The recent coronavirus outbreak is another example of how easily traditional supply chains can be quickly and dramatically disrupted, exposing the risk inherent in what is clearly an outdated and unreliable model,” Fictiv’s Dave Evans writes in Forbes. “In a world where markets and supply chains are global, there must be a better way.”

A Better Way
By blending good inventory management strategies with the ability to move inventory quickly throughout the supply chain at a high velocity and lower cost, companies can ensure that the right products are in the right place and at the right time. Using a combination of hardware and software, companies can achieve this balance in any environment.


The PINC AIR Aerial Inventory Robot™, for example, allows companies to apply autonomous drone technology—coupled with computer vision technology, artificial intelligence (A.I.), sensors, and cloud computing—to significantly improve accuracy, speed, and safety of collecting warehouse inventory levels.

“PINC AIR collects and processes inventory information inside of warehouses 100 times faster than humans can,” says PINC CEO Matt Yearling. “With a simple, three-click process, the drone flies autonomously, captures inventory data, processes the data onboard, and sends it to the cloud without any human interaction.”

Once in the cloud, that data is automatically compared to what’s available in the warehouse management system (WMS), providing a final reconciliation report to the user. “By automating inventory checks and improving accuracy, speed, and safety of collecting warehouse inventory levels,” Yearling explains, “PINC AIR helps companies move inventory as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible throughout the supply chain.”

Digital Yard to The Rescue
Often referred to as the “black hole” of the supply chain, the yard is a critical juncture that many companies overlook. Currently used by hundreds of distribution center and manufacturing plants around the globe, the PINC Yard Management System is the only digital YMS that truly automates and optimizes gate activities, trailer movements, dock scheduling, yard operations and functions performed by yard workers and administrators, and communication between trading partners and carriers.

Suitable for both small and large enterprises, PINC YMS enables management of multiple yards and provides a single bird’ s-eye view of all the yards. “Our customers call our YMS the ‘Google of Trailers,” says Yearling, “because finding and keeping track of any information associated with a trailer or shipment in the YMS is easy and fast.”


In the past couple of weeks, PINC has seen an increased shipment volume in some industry verticals of our customer base. In particular, with industry verticals such as food and beverage manufacturing, grocery retail, retail, and apparel.

PINC has also assembled a dedicated team to accommodate our customers’ current needs and we are working around the clock to make sure all customers can successfully navigate through these challenging times.

Here are some success stories so far:

  • Beverage manufacturers have been able to access trailer capacity information in real-time and load and unload trailers as efficiently as possible, and ship those trailers to grocery D.C.s and other retail locations at record speeds.
  • Grocery retailers have been able to understand how many trailers, the location, and status (loaded/unloaded) of those trailers in real-time, automate the creation of waves of shipments, and make sure products are being delivered to the consumers in record time.
  • Retail and apparel companies are having to deal with multiple store closures and return shipments to their Distribution Centers. By tagging each trailer that returns to the facilities, PINC has been able to timestamp and keep track of all inventory in those trailers, providing a powerful real-time inventory management tool to these companies.

Founded in 2004, PINC is a pioneer in digital yard and digital inventory solutions. By employing drones, sensors, and advanced software to track and locate inventory inside and outside of manufacturing plants and distribution centers, PINC’s innovation gives companies a cost-effective way to move inventory faster and super optimize their supply chain.

We are looking forward to your success as well. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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Amanda Correa

Written by Amanda Correa

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