The start of a new year always brings with it changes and new trends. As businesses search for new ways to operate more efficiently, take advantage of technology and meet the new challenges presented by the recovering economy, warehousing has taken on new importance. No longer “just” sites for storage, picking, packing and shipping, warehouses have taken on a new strategic significance for businesses of all sizes. Customer satisfaction, overall operational efficiency and level and scope of service are all being linked back to the warehouse, putting what was once a back-end, little understood (and appreciated) function in the spotlight.
As a result, there are a number of trends taking hold in the warehousing industry. These trends are changing the ways organizations and operations managers are handling warehouse functions. Several of these trends are moving to the forefront and will play a profound role in the design, operation and management of warehouses in 2014.
Increased Recognition of the Warehouse’s Role in Business Operations
In the past, the warehouse was considered mostly “space,” a place to hold stock and manage shipping it out to customers. However, especially in the retail segment, there’s been an increased recognition of the warehouse’s importance beyond simple storage and shipping. Shipments play an important role in customer satisfaction; when shipments are incorrect, late or damaged, it reflects poorly on the business. However, the warehouse’s importance extends even beyond the fundamentals of customer service. Companies are looking for added value from all aspects of their operations, meaning warehouses are being called upon to offer value-added services to clients. Services such as item assembly have now become the norm in some warehouses, when in the past they may have been a manufacturing function. As a result, warehouse have become revenue drivers — and just as important to executive leadership as other departments.
Increased Emphasis on Productivity and Efficiency
“Time is money” has long been a maxim in the business world, and as competition increases while resources become scarcer, it’s as true today as it was 100 years ago. As a result, companies are searching for ways to increase the efficiency and productivity of warehouse operations. Increased worker training, warehouse evaluations and redesigns, new and advanced tools and implementation of new technology are all being used to help warehouses move more goods in less time.
It should be no surprise technology is taking over the warehousing world. In fact, one study found more than 60 percent of all warehousing operations plan to increase their technological infrastructure over the next four years. Already, we’re seeing an increase in warehouse workers using handheld computers and devices in picking and inventory operations, and the coming months will see additional technology used to automate certain warehouse procedures. These technological advancements are expected to increase efficiency and productivity, while reducing costs.
These are only some of the trends analysts are seeing in the warehousing industry for 2014. Other factors to watch for include a focus on reduced inventory, a greater emphasis on security and more agility among warehouse service providers. In the meantime, expect to see a focus on cost-savings and efficiency take priority, and change the ways warehouses work.