What is the future of the warehouse?

The future of the warehouse

With the changes of recent times in the E-commerce world – from an increase in online shopping, to supply chain challenges – we’re exploring some educated and informed predictions that can be made about the future of warehouses and fulfilment houses, and the impacts these will have on fulfilment and logistics.

Read on to find out more.


The real estate of warehousing may change

Many have suggested that the huge premises known as ‘mega sheds’ may no longer be a viable model for international and national distribution networks, with a shift to more localised operations being more sustainable.

This may never come to pass back in 2014, Deloitte forecasted the mega shed would “eventually plateau, and there will become a greater demand for smaller, urban warehouses.”

However, with the logistics lessons of ‘bottlenecking’ still being learned from the halting of supply chains during the pandemic, and an interest in being closer to the end-user to reduce costs in the final mile as well as to meet the need for ‘near immediate’ deliveries, local branch operations could be on the horizon. Teamed with national operation hubs, this approach is expected to offer more versatility, mobility and accessibility to inventory.

Multi-tenanted warehouses are another option, where businesses can share a more cost-effective model, known as consolidation centres. Such warehouses are accessible locally and regionally to converging towns and dense urban populations nearby big cities.

Having the flexibility of space as and when required to fluctuate with the seasons and sales by utilising the space you need may be necessary to some but won’t work for others. When we look at some of the future changes in automation and robotics, perhaps the concept is void. Consider that Amazon has patented a ‘floating warehouse’, a helium designed blimp stationed above the roads ready to collect and deliver items. It’s almost as strange as fiction, but if you’re planning on adding a massive dock to your warehouse, it would be wise to pause for thought.

Automation and Robotics

A Forbes article titled ‘Automation Is The Future Of Warehousing’ details some of the areas of automation most likely to break through, in conveyors and sortations, AS/RS (stacker cranes), AMRs (Automate Mobile Robots) and robotic case picking.

If your warehouse is still considering automation, the decision to change could become more critical for you in the next few years as competitors take the leap. Survey findings conducted by ARC Advisory Group suggest:

“A full 96 per cent of survey respondents indicated that they expect the warehouse automation value proposition (in comparison to the manual alternative) to increase over the next three years.”

Nowhere is automation closer to a tipping point than for logistics.

Delivery drones and automated vehicles will almost certainly impact warehouse operations, the question being ‘when’, not ‘if’.

The first types of self-driving vehicles could be on UK roads by the end of this year, and drone delivery would transform end customers’ expectations to ‘same hour’ instead of the same day. The result would be an urgent need to streamline operations and potentially transform how items are picked, how labels are printed, and how employees and machines can work in unison.

Fulfilment pace will be critical

Of course, fulfilment done well has always been critical to your service, but securing the capability of same- and next-day delivery fulfilment like Amazon and Walmart is what consumers have now come to expect, even before we meet the drones of the future.

“The ability to deliver orders to customers rapidly via a method of their choosing is now a major point of competition. Fulfilment has become the differentiator.”

Deloitte

In terms of how we shop, multichannel was surpassed by omnichannel, likely due to the popularity of smartphones and rapidly advancing technologies. This has meant a different appetite for retailers and online sellers as they seek a warehouse solution.

“Fulfilment has become the differentiator, and many retailers are responding to this challenge by adopting an omnichannel approach, connecting the store, online presence and social media to all parts of the supply chain.”

Deloitte

Diversifying the fulfilment portfolio is key

In addition to a rise in demand and supply chain issues, the E-commerce industry has been impacted by an increase in customer expectations, which is creating challenges for online retailers. Customer experience continues to be the main differentiator for the top E-commerce brands, and where delivery is concerned, this means choice and transparency. Recent reports have shown that consumers don’t necessarily want the quickest delivery option possible, but the ability to choose a specific day and time slot, which is forcing online retailers to implement a more robust delivery strategy. And this is where tech-led 3PL and fulfilment houses come in.

No longer are fulfilment services just store, pick, pack, despatch. Having more flexibility in your service solutions is now a way to set your fulfilment company apart from the competition, which is why many warehouse teams are now handling returns processing and reverse logistics.

The ability to promote your fully integrated fulfilment and inventory management software solution as a shared benefit, along with extra services. The future as a 3PL warehousing and fulfilment business will be in using tech to gain a competitive edge. Customers expect a first-class service with real time updates, easily accessible information and a technology led, customer first approach, which not all businesses can deliver.

Data management matters

Data collection, processing, and analysis is one area that is guaranteed to change for warehousing, fulfilment, and logistics – the whole world revolves around knowledge.

Once upon a time, data was on a printout or a spreadsheet. Now it is cloud-based.

The data tech trends to focus on will be integrated tech that allows your warehouse to share with others through APIs. It’s time to invest in your E-commerce, 3PL and fulfilment OMS solution.

The final word

While the future is always unpredictable, you can control some elements. For example, are you already sharing data to the best of your abilities? Are you standing out in front of your competition? Do you have the best 3PL and fulfilment software to fit your business now and for whatever may come tomorrow?

Access Mintsoft offers a fully integrated OMS solution with impressive courier and logistics integrations for the local, regional and global markets.

If you’re ready to get your warehouse ready for the future, speak to our experts. Contact us today to book your free demonstration.