As an owner-operator, Prologis focuses on fixing problems before they occur.

Many aspects of property maintenance are standardized, such as timing and frequency of inspections. Much is also left to the discretion of the local markets. With 225 industrial warehouses and over 43 million square feet of pavement under his purview, VP of property management Vince Zuppa wanted to improve Prologis Chicago’s approach to paving. Motivated by operational efficiency and an improved customer experience, Vince researched drone technology to enhance pavement inspections.

As happens in our highly collaborative environment, Vince heard that a colleague in San Francisco was talking to Airware, a drone analytics company, about automating inspections to improve safety, efficiency and maintenance outcomes. Using the Chicago market as a pilot, Prologis partnered with Airware and Rabine Group to complete autonomous drone missions over 100 Prologis sites. They analyzed pavement conditions and identified 28 data points critical to assessing the condition of any property’s pavement. Vince compiled data collected from the pilot to create a pavement condition index (PCI) to rate the integrity of each property’s pavement.

An image of a Prologis loading dock taken by a drone camera.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed the PCI for roads and parking lots, and it is the universal standard. The PCI rates pavement conditions on a scale from one to 100.  A PCI of 100 would be the rating for new paving. A PCI of 50 is the tipping point where deferred maintenance has created diminishing returns for repairs, indicating the lot should be replaced entirely. Initial data for Prologis' Chicago portfolio indicates a PCI of 70, which is exceptional.

Vince's approach aggregates data on pavement condition, repair and replacement, positioning Prologis to optimize repair and replacement timing. Prologis will differentiate itself from the industry by applying technology and analytics to predicting pavement failure and planning pavement maintenance.

In addition to the data-gathering benefits of drone-enabled pavement inspections, drones reduce inspection costs by 30 percent compared to traditional in-person inspections onsite. And thanks to our scale and market density, Prologis is able to bundle work for cost efficiency. Reducing the number of vendors results in a more consistent and efficient paving process.

After collecting the data, Vince’s team brought in paving consultants to establish a repair protocol based on the study’s findings. The data gave us insight into normal wear and tear, abused paving structures and climate degradation. For example, the useful life of a paving structure leased to a customer shipping diapers would be different from a similar structure leased to a customer shipping steel coils.

At the end of the pilot, the Chicago operations team and its partners collaborated to define inspection protocols. The PCI, as well as Vince's standardized and automated paving inspection process, is currently a pilot. If it proves out, we will roll it out to Prologis markets across the U.S.

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