The Future of the Warehouse

The warehouse industry has gone through a frenetic evolution in recent years. From same-day delivery to goods-to-person order picking, practices in warehouses are nothing like they were ten years ago.

These dramatic changes did not occur in a vacuum, however- several recent trends have heavily influenced warehouse technology and processes. In today’s blog entry, we cover three of these trends and how their influence has manifested in warehousing.


1. Shifting activities.

Today’s customers want more for less. They’re looking for high quality products without the matching price tag. This presents a unique challenge for manufacturers, distributors, and warehousing- how can you lower the cost of production while maintaining efficiency and quality? For many in the industry, the answer is shifting where activities take place and who performs them. In recent years, companies have shifted more and more value-added activities from manufacturing and distribution- where labor costs are high- to warehousing, where activities like packaging, product configuration, labeling, and others can be performed at a lower cost. The demand for high quality, low cost products has also spurred warehouse managers and executives to reduce the amount of inventory they keep in stock. This serves two purposes- to reduce the overall cost of inventory and to make room for the increasing amount of value-added activities taking place in the warehouse.

2. Automation & Technology.

Automated and mobile technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in the warehouse. According to a study conducted by Motorola, more than two-thirds of warehousing professionals plan to bring more automated processes into their operations and put mobile technology in the hands of their staff. Automated storage and retrieval systems bring goods directly to order pickers. Staff taking inventory scan barcodes with tablets instead of jotting down SKUs with a pen and clipboard. These technologies allow warehouse managers to reduce order picking times, reduce inventory theft, and increase the efficiency and accuracy of their picking processes.

3. Workforce.

The slowly improving economy has made it easier for warehouse management to find and keep employees and reduce turnover. However, as technologies and processes change in the warehouse, management still faces a talent challenge. For operations embracing automated and mobile technology, it’s important to find and retain employees that are tech-savvy and can easily learn or re-learn changing practices. Across the industry, this training time can be a killer- it takes approximately 48 hours for a new hire to become fully productive in a warehouse environment. As the skill requirements for the warehouse workforce continues to change, management must also find ways to streamline their training practices while ensuring new and re-trained workers are ready and able to work with the new technologies being utilized.

What challenges do you face in your daily warehouse operations? What challenges do you anticipate in the future? Tweet us @UNEX and let us know what trends are driving change in your warehouse!