Over the last five years, there has been a big push to modernise and digitise warehousing, distribution, logistics, and the supply chain.
This trend will continue in 2023 and for the foreseeable future.
It has become clear that a critical driver for warehouse management transformation is a more tech-savvy and demanding customer. The Covid pandemic increased the consumer’s reliance on e-commerce, and that trend has stuck and will become even more prevalent in 2023 and beyond. By the end of 2022, South Africa will hit US$8.4 billion in online sales. E-commerce will continue to rise, and of that, there’s no doubt. Warehouse, distribution, and supply chain executives need to be on top of this trend if they want to stay competitive in the future.
There are also other pressures keeping supply chain leaders awake at night. Such as labour constraints (getting the right fit people in to do the job), the availability of enough physical storage space, higher property, and land prices demanded, and limited budgets and investment resources.
Below are three trends that need to take seriously if your warehouse and supply chain operation wants to stay competitive and profitable.
Automation and Robots
There’s a big push to automate the warehouse management system. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics will take centre stage in the coming years. However, there’s a misconception that as the ‘machines’ take over, we will employ fewer humans in the warehouse space. Instead, we will need our people to be equipped with the skills to make sense of the vast amount of information generated and to make the decisions only humans can make to continue the improvements in automated technologies.
The human touch is still essential, and it’s up to supply chain executives to figure out how to mix automation’s positives with their employees’ ingenuity. A survey by Zebra Technologies agreed and found two-thirds of decision-makers believed a combination of automation and new tech working alongside the human workforce was the way forward.
Data is the fulcrum on which any warehousing operation runs. It is imperative to gather meaningful and useful intelligence across the entire warehouse operations if you want to stay ahead of the game. Therefore, warehouse management systems (WMS) software are not nice to have; they’re non-negotiable. They do all the heavy lifting required to analyse, understand and use data so that you can optimise your warehouse
It’s best practice to let the entire organisation access the data. Therefore, the best-performing organisations will merge the WMS information with the other organisational information systems to gain more significant insights into supply chain performance.
Customers are becoming increasingly vocal about saving the planet. They’re becoming more vigilant about the companies they use and are making sustainable and carbon-neutral choices. As a result, they will support companies that are doing the same.
Top-performing warehouses now consider reducing their environmental impact by utilising energy-saving technologies in areas as simple as lighting to low-energy automation technologies. Being able to do more with less, leads to less wastage and fewer operating requirements. Other efforts include utilising more reusable containers for transport, recyclable packaging materials, and becoming more efficient in the transportation of goods.
Sustainable practices offer financial returns too. For example, two-thirds of managed costs in warehouses come from picking, and WMS provides the potential for reducing costs by optimising routes and processes.
By helping reduce its carbon footprint and improve the planet’s sustainability, the warehousing and distribution industry is doing the right thing and making sound business sense. In an industry where margins are at a historic low, companies can neither afford to waste time nor resources.
Don’t allow competitors to push ahead
Too many companies and operators have had a passive approach to investing time and resources into their WMS, whether through fear, lack of time, or resources. The time is now; costs are coming down, making such systems far more accessible to businesses of all shapes and sizes.
As a WMS integrator, Apex can help your organisation navigate automation, data, and sustainability effectively.
Reach out to us for warehouse management consulting services.