2021 Warehouse Trends

It’s not just the end of another year, but of another decade, taking us into ‘20s and an exciting age of technological developments. A lot has changed in the past 10 years, and by the time we reach the end of this decade we will probably look back with similar amazement.  In this article we are going to take it one step at a time and look at 2020 warehouse trends and what is in-store for the year ahead.

Use of regional warehouses

Centralised warehousing has many advantages, but as customer demands continue to increase and firms look to stay ahead of competition, reducing delivery times will be close to the top of the agenda. Regional warehouses allow larger companies to deliver items to customers on the same day, removing the need to wait even 24 hours before a product can be delivered. Smaller regional warehouses will become needed here, which will place restrictions on the type of products that can be fast-tracked on a same day delivery, but on key sellers could prove to be vital.

Voice-based technology

It is estimated that it takes a new employee over 60 hours of training to reach full productivity. In an attempt to reduce this time period, some warehouses are looking to migrate from voice-only systems to technology that combines voice picking and screen-directing picking, which can be controlled through mobile devices.

Another method set to be on the increase is task interleaving. This involves tracking the location of employees and data linked to device usage to maximise productivity. Not only will it save on time but allow them to carry out more tasks. Cross-docking is another function that will be on the rise in  the coming years as it will allow warehouses to minimise manual handling of materials.

Carbon footprint reduction

The need for warehouses to reduce their impact on the environment has been a hot topic for a number of years and is set to become even more prominent over the next 12 months. That will drive the introduction of a number of new eco-conscious initiatives, which could be anything from recycling packaging materials to high-efficiency equipment to reduce energy consumption. Other areas of consideration will be things such as optimising use of vehicles by reviewing their associated data and the introduction of biodegradable packaging.

Improved warehouse visibility

The Internet of Things will play an ever more centralised role in the day-to-day activities in many warehouses, linking together various devices used across the supply chain. The information produced will offer invaluable insight right across the business, supporting activities such as order picking and inventory tracking.

RFID technology will be key to enabling this, especially as it is now a far more affordable option for smaller businesses. Due to the plethora of cost-effective options now available on the market, it is expected that a larger number of warehouses will invest in RFID solutions this year than ever before.

The benefits of using the system make it easier to track the location of stock, making for a far more efficient distribution chain. Not only will warehouses look to make full use of RFID technology, but also retailers, logistics companies and manufacturers.

More focus on reverse logistics

It is estimated that as many as 34% of consumers make impulse buys through social media sites, as the platforms make it easier to purchase goods directly. Since May 2019 Instagram users have been able to use the site to shop and checkout via built-in tools. This will mean that the percentage of impulse buys will only increase, which will lead to more returns for a growing number of retailers. Experts predict that a fifth of all returns made by online shoppers will be accounted for by consumers buying via social media.

Labour shortage solutions

With Brexit set in stone and an already tight labour market already in place, firms will have to work smart to overcome the issues that will arise from leaving the EU. In particular, attracting and retaining qualified hourly workforce employees has proven to be a growing problem for some time. The way forward may involve a number of solutions ranging from higher pay to enhancing the training and benefits that are made available. In order for companies to remain competitive and achieve their planned expansion goals, opportunities to improve personal development and specialised training will be key.

Warehouse management systems

The use of warehouse management systems (WMS) and automation will increase through 2020 and beyond, be it through implementation of partially automated conveyors or sorting systems to maintain and improve efficiency. With these relied upon as fundamentals, other supporting technology predicted to be invested in includes AGVs, transport management systems and palletisers. In order to meet the expectations of customers who have access to an ever-growing choice of providers, this is an area that warehouses cannot afford to overlook.