What the warehouse of the future might look like

The Future of warehousing

With the rise of e-commerce showing no signs of slowing down, morewarehousing in the future  and more retailers are looking to invest in a sleek and speedy logistics system. Now is the time to future proof the logistical hubs that tie a supply chain together. Warehouses are set to be bigger, more advanced, and strategically located, and the race is on to construct sites that can accommodate changing demands.

It’s not only the dimensions and content of the warehouse that is being re-examined, but the location too. Regional large-scale logistical hubs are a good way of shortening lead times, but the greatest change is set to be the use of smaller urban warehouses. Located in cities, these down-the-road hubs will literally be in businesses’ and customers’ sights, enabling even shorter lead times and benefiting from a marketing and publicity advantage. Speeding up the supply chain is a key component to success in this competitive industry, and if it means the difference between a customer clicking one way rather than another, logistical and fulfilment services are likely to have more of a foothold in urban areas.

Warehouse expansion

Expansion and acquiring new premises are practical ways of ensuring the right levels of stock can be managed. Newer premises also means pick and pack procedures can be examined and adapted in light of new space for technology. However, new sites can carry large price tags, and an easier option can be to expand and optimise existing ones. Busy shopping periods and changing trends can leave a warehouse rammed, and ultimately lose time and profits, so many order fulfilment practices are being re-vamped to utilise new or existing space inside the warehouse. Literally expanding up, or to the sides of a warehouse is a great way of creating more room, but more immediate changes can be made to efficiency levels. An internal redesign may be called for, or a major re-shuffle of stock. Safety remains paramount, but any option that can create more workable space means a warehouse can handle more items, and gain more custom as a result.

Automation in fulfilment and pick & pack

Automation continues to be the rising star of fulfilment services, but the degree at which it can be implemented varies from warehouse to warehouse. Automation is designed to work alongside picking and packing, and ultimately smooth warehouse practices, as well as having other potential benefits such as further utilising space. Driver-less vehicles are becoming reliable alternatives to a traditional labour force. Electric forklifts are able to collect pallets and drop them off in the correct area, and the large overhauls typically associated with automation are no longer required. This technology can be assimilated with current vehicles, meaning businesses won’t lose time or money on new vehicles and systems. Automation promises great changes for industry practices, but it doesn’t mean a labour force will not be required. There’s no technology to handle the fiddly delicacies of picking and packing at the moment. The new workforce is likely to be made up of more engineers and IT specialists.

In the short term flexibility is key, and warehouses have to be creative in how they handle items. Although fulfilment remains a growing market, there’s a lot of competition between businesses, and securing a future-proof warehouse is a bold step in staying ahead.

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