The retail industry has experienced dramatic change over recent years as digital innovation and technological advancements have influenced both consumer buying behaviour and the supply chain.
At the SHD Logistics Autumn Conference back in October 2018, presenters from John Lewis and Gusto both spoke about changing consumer demand for increased choice, speed and convenience as online shopping continues to grow in popularity. Not only do consumers want more flexible delivery options including home delivery and click and collect, they are also expecting goods at a faster rate with increasing demand for next day or same day delivery.
From speed of production through to fulfilment of the ‘last mile’, retailers are faced with the challenge of future-proofing their supply chain and premises in a constantly evolving landscape in order to fast track delivery of products to their customers. As retailers provide more choice to consumers, omnichannel distribution in turn creates demand for more dynamic, innovative supply chain solutions.
Automated material handling solutions are being increasingly required for large warehouses and distribution centres, from robotics and conveyors to order picking systems, and specialist engineering expertise is required to ensure machinery can be adequately supported.
We’ve been looking at the changing landscape in logistics and some of the fascinating innovations already in place to help companies become more agile, from drone delivery to automatic guided vehicles (AGVs). Here are just some of the trends we can expect in the warehouses of the future:
Flexible Warehouse Schemes
In order to cope with seasonal demand spikes and increasing demand for fast home delivery, retailers are starting to look for more flexible options. According to Supply Chain Dive these include shorter term leases, on demand warehousing and micro warehousing. Longer term leases with 3PLs and minimum order requirements can be a barrier for smaller retailers, and operational agility will increasingly provide competitive advantage.
Likewise, Swisslog has predicted that we’ll see an increase in local urban distribution centres with shared service agreements between retailers in order to create economies of scale and cope with same day and next day delivery. In contrast, e-commerce will lead to demand for larger warehouse premises outside of cities with higher ceilings and level floors to accommodate mezzanines, in order to optimise space and maximise productivity.
Warehouses are increasingly using customised automated machinery to work alongside staff and assist with managing the movement, storage and sorting of warehouse inventory. Retail giants such as ASOS and Alliance Healthcare have invested in automation/material handling systems to store, manage and dispatch products. DHL Trend Research cited that robotic solutions will not only assist with picking and packing, they will become essential to address the need for faster processes coupled with the challenge of ongoing labour shortages. With 80% of warehouses today being manually operated, the potential for robotics is huge.
As identified in a recent article by SHD Logistics, global spending on voice-direction solutions in warehousing will reach over US$3.3 billion by 2025. These solutions aim to assist the warehouse workforce by providing operational instructions in a clear and hands-free way. The technology uses spoken commands for picking, putting, receiving and replenishing. Companies using voice-tasking technology can expect improved system controls, accuracy and higher ROI as some of the benefits from the technology (via cerasis).
Research by Microsoft via The Manufacturer has shown that companies embarking on the artificial intelligence journey are delivering a 5% improvement on factors like productivity, staff performance and business outcomes compared to those that are not. Investing in sophisticated systems are helping to analyse operations and generate valuable data that can drive workforce efficiency over time.
The streamlining of data to predict buying behaviour has the potential to revolutionise the logistics industry and enable it to pro-actively flex based on predicted sales. This could help minimise the over or under stocking of products in warehouses, thus improving operational efficiencies.
We design, manufacture and install bespoke mezzanine floors to a wide range of sectors including retail, commercial and industrial. We are a member of AMHSA, the Automated Material Handling Systems Association and have helped value-engineer complex mezzanine solutions for retailers and system integrators.