It is a known fact in the airline industry that onboard inventory procedures are not optimal. Countifi was developed specifically to address this issue. The goal of Countifi is to help airlines track onboard inventory more efficiently. However, the further we got into software development, the more focus group discussions we conducted, and the more conversations with airlines we held, the more we realized that there were many more benefits to implementing Countifi. Specifically, we realized that implementing Countifi could affect the entire supply chain process by generating savings in inventory costs, provisioning, labor, and fuel.
At the outset, we knew that Countifi would bring down inventory costs; this was the primary reason we developed the app. We were aware that onboard inventory procedures could be improved across the airline industry, and we were confident that Countifi, powered by advances in imaging technology, could bring about such an improvement.
Monitoring inventory more efficiently can reduce provisioning costs, i.e. the cost to set up and place food and beverage carts on an aircraft. A more efficient inventory tracking mechanism can reveal to an airline whether too much or too little inventory is being loaded onto a plane. Consequently, it becomes possible for an airline to optimize its inventory levels.
In most cases, this means lowering inventory levels. Thus, provisioning costs are reduced.
If less inventory needs to be loaded onto an aircraft, naturally, fewer people are needed to do the loading. Thus, whether the kitchen function is managed internally or is outsourced, a more efficient inventory tracking mechanism will, in most cases, result in a reduction in labor costs.
According to our research, onboard inventory tracking—when it is conducted at all—is typically done manually. This means at least one person is assigned to count and record every single item in the inventory. Needless to say, such a process is prone to error and diverts time and manpower that would otherwise be better directed towards customers.
An automated solution, such as that made possible by Countifi, would dramatically reduce the time needed to conduct a full inventory count. Using Countifi, a flight staff would only need to snap pictures of the carts containing the various items that have been brought on board. The images would then be transmitted to Countifi servers, where the items would be recognized and counted. A detailed report of the contents is then returned to the company for review. Everything is done electronically.
As a result, the aircraft personnel would barely need to spend time performing inventory tasks, and would, instead, be able to devote their time and energy catering to the needs of the passengers.
Finally, if a more efficient inventory process reduces the amount of inventory brought aboard an aircraft, this would naturally translate to fuel savings. On average, a full food & beverage cart weighs upwards of 200-300 pounds. Eliminating one or two of these carts from a flight can have a major impact on fuel savings. Fuel savings alone, brought about by weight reduction, could save airlines millions of dollars annually.