The warehousing sector has undergone dramatic changes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the most noticeable is the rapid acceleration in uptake of automation, AI and robotics technologies, but there are also a number of other emerging trends.
Let’s take a look at the key warehousing trends set to take centre stage before the year is out:
An interesting new model for warehousing emerged after the pandemic. This was on-demand warehousing, where operators were able to monetise unused storage space. This in turn enabled others to increase their storage capacity in line with demand.
The flexibility of this kind of pay-as-you-go model, which has been enabled by convenient app technology, has helped operators to respond to fluctuating market demand.
This isn’t just an informal arrangement either. For example, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has created its own database of unused warehouse space. There’s even a booking system, where companies can identify and occupy space for short-term use.
And also in the US, UPS has created a dedicated new tool – Ware2Go. This makes it easy for shopping firms to find on-demand warehouses.
A step closer to fully automated warehouses
While 100% ‘smart’ warehouses are few and far between, it’s safe to say that automation has rocketed over the last few years. More steps in the supply chain are now being handled by automation, from sorting processes to palette shuttling.
Pepsi New Zealand, for example, is known to use automated pallet shuttle systems to store and move high product volumes. This reduces both space and staffing needs, while retaining speed or accuracy.
This trend is certainly set to continue, and indeed to accelerate. Recent Forbes data shows that warehouse executives are planning to make a number of automation types an investment priority over the next 1-3 years. These include conveyors and automatic sorting, shuttle systems, stacker cranes and AGVs.
Warehouse buildings reaching new heights
In order to increase storage in areas where real estate is expensive (such as near shipping ports), operators have come up with a simple yet effective solution. They’re building up rather than out. In some cases, warehouse buildings are being built or remodelled to 40-foot heights – rather than a standard 20 foot.
This is proving to be a cost-effective way to boost storage and capacity in dense urban areas. It also creates opportunities to implement new technology, such as automated pallet systems capable of reaching these 40-foot heights.
Energy efficiency is a major concern within the industry. But new measures are starting to make an impact on the sector’s sustainability stats, including solar panels, LED lighting, cool roof systems and green building materials. According to Easyship:
“New green practices are already being built into modern warehouse design. Most notably, lights-out warehouses go dark in areas when human workers are absent. Combined with the uptick in robotics, warehouses stand to save big on heating and lighting costs in the future.”
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