Warehousing Trends: A post-Pandemic Review
Hitting mid-2021, the growth in ecommerce appears to be unstoppable. This is not surprising for those in the industry who saw this trend emerging long before anyone had ever heard of a COVID-19. However, the pandemic has pushed forward the move towards online purchasing much more quickly than predicted, which has directly impacted warehousing trends.
The 7 warehousing trends making an impact on the industry.
By 2027, B2B e-commerce sales are expected to grow by 17.5%, meaning these emerging trends will soon become industry norms. We know some of the post-pandemic impacts won’t last forever, but right now, many are still in full effect. Below we outline some of the key warehousing trends which have emerged post-pandemic:
1: Transformation of The Warehouse Network
With an accelerated e-commerce growth predicted over the next six years, the warehouse network is mapping out a future to accommodate it. Changes in the network have shifted from mass pallets sent directly to retail stores to individual orders being shipped directly to the customers’ door. This has caused a significant change in the way materials flow in and out of the warehouse, as well as the way they need to be processed and stored.
Many companies are struggling with this shift. This is due to the fact their fulfilment networks were never designed for it. As a result, many companies have switched to nearshoring to accommodate, which has enabled them to gain higher efficiencies with their supply chain.
2: Continued Social Distancing
For the time being, social distancing will be one of the warehousing trends that sticks around and will continue long after the pandemic is over. Social Distancing ensures infection rates are kept low within a warehouse and enables the supply chain to be undisrupted.
These measures will most likely have pickers continuing to use one-way systems around the warehouses, as well as having them utilising multiple sanitization stations. For packers, it will be staying in their designated packing stations and also sanitising regularly.
These continued measures may seem over the top, especially thinking of them in terms of years, but the goal is to ensure the continued safety, and most importantly, the health of the workforce. As a side effect, this will also reduce the spread of other viruses such as the flu and the common cold.
3: Plan for Supply Chain Resiliency
The ups and downs of the 2020-2021 period have proven to all involved that the supply chain’s resilience is of the highest priority. Not just on demand-supply, but also on being able to manage changes in consumer behaviour almost overnight, as well as capacity and economic factors. Just because it’s always worked should not be a reason to think it always will.
Supply Chain Optimization software is going to be essential for managing these substantial changes moving forward. With the power to see across the entire supply chain at once, it allows companies to think about the bigger picture instead of focusing on piecemeal issues or areas. It gives them the ability to holistically see what’s going on and, most importantly, what can be changed. Investing in data insights will allow companies to rise above others in 2021, and it will pay off when their supply chain is more resilient than their competitors.
4: New Hiring Practices
New technology means new skills required. With machines taking over some of the groundwork and more manual labour, a need for different hiring practices comes to the forefront of the HR department. Companies will be looking for engineers with robotics experience to maintain the new machines. They’ll need IT specialists for software changes and data analysts to work with the influx of data that will now be supplied.
Lastly, there will be a need for supply chain professionals to look after the entire operation and ensure the new parts of the chain are working together cohesively.
This new requirement may have HR teams focused on bringing in new talent from outside, as well as introducing new training programmes for their current workforce, especially for those with the knowledge but no qualifications. This is a fantastic opportunity to upskill whoever is ready and is yet another warehousing trend that has made a positive impact on the industry.
5: Warehouse Management Software will be upgraded
For many companies, their warehouse management software (WMS) will also require a new update to ensure all the new capabilities which have emerged are being integrated fully into their WMS. For example, Machine Learning can adapt almost instantly to changes in shipper behaviour without human input and enact those changes immediately within the warehouse.
With simple changes to the workflow, such as allocation changes and intelligent batch-picking, an upgraded WMS increases productivity ten-fold and allows the workforce to deal with the bigger-picture issues. A 3PL needs to be as updated as possible with these new technologies to stay ahead of the market.
6: Last Mile Deliveries
One of the most significant emerging trends of the post-pandemic is the introduction of Last Mile delivery services. This is the part of the delivery, which comes at the very end and where the product meets the customer.
Many companies themselves are taking on the burden of completing the final delivery stage as a way to speed up the delivery process and increase customer satisfaction. In an age where time is money, it makes sense for companies to want to take back some of the control. Especially if the margins of cost between the two services are considerably less. These services are also being sold outside to small 3rd services.
7: Increased Cold Storage Demand
An interesting emerging trend in the market is the growth of cold storage demand. With the nature of the pandemic meaning the grocery sector grew exponentially over the past year, the need for storing speciality items such as dairy and meat products also increased. Customers struggled to get slots for online delivery at the beginning of the pandemic. This was mostly due to the food retail industry being unable to meet demand with the limited amount of cold storage (other factors included staffing, transportation etc.).
Since then, the growing demand for products that require lower temperatures has only grown, with products such as berries, flowers, and pharmaceuticals rising to the fore. The latter is of substantial value due to the recently made vaccinations that require transportation at sub-temperatures.
Although this warehousing trend in the pharmaceutical industry may fade relatively quickly, the retail sector will continue to need cold storage. Those that can provide it as part of their offerings will be highly sought after, even if they may require automation to manage smaller, efficient cold storage warehouses to keep costs down.
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