Warehousing – UK trends

The sharp end of logistics is always seen as the delivery point – it’s where happy or unhappy customers get to express their opinions on the whole supply chain.

If endpoint delivery is the sharp end, then warehousing is the broad base from which every part of the supply chain actually operates.

Warehouse space in Scotland at a premium

Fluctuating conditions, economically and geographically, have created a range of warehousing conditions across the UK, with Scotland currently struggling to locate industrial space for its growing logistics industry. The demand for a warehouse for rent above 10,000 sq ft has grown three times faster than the UK average, whilst still remaining low compared to the Midlands and southern counties of England. Glasgow, which houses much of Scotland’s industry as well as being a major logistics hub, is particularly hard hit and there is fierce competition for warehousing space for the retail distribution and delivery sectors. The reason for the failure to create new warehousing space is claimed to be the Scottish Government’s abolition of rates relief.

Middleware – technology to improve warehouse productivity

While middleware is a new feature in UK warehousing, it’s in regular use in warehouses across China and in the Middle East where large warehouse capacity is already established and shaving grams and seconds off warehouse processes is vital to fulfilling penalty rich contracts. Middleware may include voice activated picking systems, smart scanners and real-time reporting which is particularly important for industries with time-limited products like food, plants or pharmaceuticals. In 2017, more new-build warehouses are expected to offer middleware as standard, which middleware developer’s claim can bring cost benefits of up to 25% in as little as a few weeks. The new middleware system offers interfaces to existing ERP or WMS systems to operate a range of activities including; goods in and put-away, stock movement through warehouse, picking, dispatch and inventory.

Frozen Food warehousing

Variable ambient temperature zones are the grail of frozen food warehousing, but difficult to retrofit into older warehouses. Distribution from variable ambient temperature warehouse locations, offer substantial cost savings and new build warehouses are increasingly offering this capacity. In the UK frozen warehousing is at an optimum at present, and third party manufacture of frozen foods is being leveraged by such industry giants as Nestlé to help ensure product availability.

Warehousing Organic Products – a Brexit question mark

Since 2009 warehouse and commercial storage operators have had to comply with EU legislation that required them to register with an organic certification body and to undergo annual inspections to maintain their ‘organic’ status. Brexit negotiations may leave this requirement as a voluntary rather than a mandatory one, which may impact the sector’s logistical capacity – already challenged by products labelled ‘organic’ but not certified as such, many organic producers fear a further watering down of ‘organic’ standards through the inability to adequately police genuinely organic storage facilities. At least one trade body is considering a consumer education programme pointing out that non-organic logistics may imperil a product’s organic status, to try and encourage organic end-users to self-police when purchasing.

Smartware – the future of warehousing?

From the Apple watch to Google Glass, smartware has made headlines and created a range of scare stories in recent years. But wearable devices are predicted to be one of the big warehousing trends in the near future, allowing managers to monitor the physical processes in the supply chain in a totally different way. For example:

  1. Google Glass can be used to count inventory – speeding up the process of checking warehouse stock through using rapid eye movements to count quicker and more reliably than human operatives
  2. Fitbits are already being used in some American warehouses to track and refine the movement of employees through a warehouse, ensuring they take optimum routes and monitoring the stress levels of workers so they are offered breaks before their concentration levels decline.

Mobile purchasing affects supply chains

12% of the UK’s total annual retail sales comes from online orders – and around half that amount is reckoned to be orders placed through mobile devices. Supply chains are increasingly affected by the 24/7 nature of mobile purchasing with traditional lulls such as Monday morning, disappearing completely. As consumers now shop during their commutes, there are no ‘down times’ – periods in which few or no orders are placed – when a warehouse could once rely on to restock, train employees or reorganise SKUs for seasonal usage. As a result, warehousing training periods are becoming shorter, and rearranging layouts is being done on a more piecemeal basis. Time and motion study consultants warn that over time this may prove counterproductive as staff begin to fall behind on professional development and space is not used to optimum efficiency.

E-commerce is the problem – The 3PL warehouse industry is the solution

According to a report by legal firm Addleshaw Goddard, the UK urgently needs more than 18 million square feet of new warehouse space. Additional pressures on logistics that the report identifies include labour skills gaps, especially in road haulage, road and rail congestion and slowing delivery times due to outdated software and failure to adapt to cloud based computing systems. One key recommendation of the report is turning some moribund out of town shopping centres into logistics hubs, amid concerns that retailers will not be able to expand their online operations and/or will be forced to raise delivery costs unless new warehouse space is found. 3PL warehousing could be a large contributor to the solution, by providing flexible warehouse space close to urban centres without requiring retailers to invest in the capital expenditure of building warehousing for themselves.

We provide professional warehouse space and warehouse services across the UK, including; pick and pack, pallet storage, temperature controlled warehousing, 3PL, distribution and much more. We specialise in sourcing the best industrial spaces and services available, which will help your business be as efficient as possible, with your costs and requirements in mind.

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