Warehouse Management Trends to Watch for In 2020
The importance of warehouse management cannot be overstated. Responsible for a crucial role in supply chain operations, warehouse workers are tasked with storing, picking, packing, and shipping items all over the world. A fast and reliable delivery rests firmly on their shoulders.
Moreover, today’s need for instant gratification is not making matters any easier for staff members. With expectations of one-day, or sometimes even same-day shipping, consumers’ patience is dwindling. These increasing demands from consumers are prompting companies to streamline their warehouse management software systems to produce better, faster results.
Companies that wish to keep up with consumer demands should consider the following trends in warehouse management:
Fulfilling orders within a day or two of purchase is not feasible without regional warehouses. These buildings are located throughout the country or even the globe. They usually hold the most commonly ordered items so that packages have less distance to cover upon a customer’s purchase. Having a couple of small regional warehouses allows your company to quickly and easily deliver products.
Small regional warehouses may also be more cost-effective than larger hubs. Sometimes, these small warehouses are converted buildings. Not only is converting these spaces easier than acquiring a brand new hub, but finding a small building to purchase is usually a more successful venture than trying to find a larger one.
Last-mile delivery is when the company that distributes the product also makes the final delivery to the customer’s home, as opposed to having a carrier such as the U.S. Postal Service complete the process. By offering to execute the last stretch of the process, companies can better ensure a speedy delivery. This service can be insourced or outsourced.
If companies wish to compete with Amazon, providing last-mile delivery is imperative. In 2018, the company began implementing fleets of Amazon-branded vans made to deliver products at record speeds. The company now holds more autonomy over its service than ever before.
AI and Machine Learning
Around the world, warehouse managers are looking at ways to incorporate AI, machine learning, and various other technologically advanced products into their building’s operations. This switch from a manual to an automatic warehouse management system offers a reliable way for companies to optimize their processes, albeit with a price tag.
Examples of high-tech innovations in the workplace include self-managing inventory systems, self-driving forklifts, drones, blockchain, and voice technology. Each of these products provides convenience and accuracy to companies, employees, and customers. A self-managing inventory system, for example, allows companies to manage their inventory in multiple locations — a key feature to those with regional warehouses.
Amazon has already begun using drones in their warehouses to streamline the process of inventory management. Drones greatly outperform human workers, performing tasks such as finding items and scanning barcodes. By automating labor-intensive activities, these devices also eliminate the risk of human injury.
Voice technology is another example of a service that prioritizes efficiency. With voice technology, workers can speak directly to the management system, easily sending updates on product delivery status. Workers need only a microphone, a headset, and a wireless computer.
Eco-friendly behavior is on the rise in a plethora of industries, warehouse manufacturing included. In order to keep up with the trend, warehouse managers should implement their own sustainable warehousing practices, also known as the balancing of economic, environmental, and social inputs and outputs of warehouse operations.
Warehouse managers can practice sustainability by investing in energy-efficient equipment, using less packaging, insulating their warehouse properly, and implementing blockchain technology solutions.
LED lighting is another way managers can invest in energy-efficient equipment. Although these may cost a little more upfront than traditional bulbs, LED lighting saves money in the long run by cutting down on electricity bills and conserving energy. Properly insulating your warehouse and using less packaging may also cut down on costs. By preventing hot or cool air from escaping the building, you might be able to lower your energy bills. Likewise, placing your products in efficient packaging can make them weigh less and cost less to ship. Efficient packaging is made from biodegradable or compostable materials.
On the social side of sustainable warehousing, there is blockchain technology. This innovation allows companies to ensure their customers’ products and personal information are secure. Not only are the customers protected, but so are all warehouse transactions.
By means of mobile technology, workers can send and receive information at any time, from anywhere. These devices enable hands-free mobility, faster data entry, and more advanced tracking, which saves companies time, energy, and money.
Mobile technology can also be innovated to send and receive information about warehouse processes in real time. This allows information to be instantly shared with staff members via user rights, one of the many advantages of warehouse inventory control software.
A few uses for mobile technology in a warehouse include mobile computers, mobile printers, and wearable barcode scanners. A mobile computer can be a phone or tablet. Made of lightweight materials, these offer accessibility and utility. The same idea is essentially followed by mobile printers and wearable barcode scanners; they allow employees to print labels and scan barcodes without being tethered to a specific location.
Warehouse managers and company owners alike should be on the lookout for these trends. Implementing any single one of them will benefit businesses in the long run. Additionally, it likely won’t be long until these trends become the norm.