Trends in Warehouse Management, 2017 and Beyond

22 December 2016 / by Chris Anton, Executive VP for Snapfulfil North America

Times are changing in the world of supply chain. From demands spurred by the rise of the on-demand consumer and big data, to the growing presence of automation and mobility on the warehouse floor, it can be difficult to identify and prepare for advancements that will have near-term impact on your warehouse operations. 

To help, we’ve compiled insight from leading analysts and influencers in the supply chain space – in addition to our favorite Snapfulfil resources – to help you prioritize and prepare for the year ahead. 

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E-commerce Growth Sets High Expectations for Warehouse Management

According to Internet Retailer: E-commerce sales are expected to grow to more than $400 billion in the next several years, with Forrester Research estimating $414.0 billion in sales in 2018 and eMarketer estimating $491.5 billion in 2018. 

How can warehouses stay a step ahead?

See our thoughts here: Why E-commerce Retail Growth Starts in the Warehouse. 

Warehouse Investments and Priorities

In an article written for Logistics Viewpoints, Clint Reiser of ARC Advisory Group expands on findings from ARC Advisory Group’s warehouse practitioner survey. Top warehouse technology investment priorities were particularly interesting. 

According to Clint: “Warehouse labor management was the most prevalent choice. E-commerce fulfillment is labor intensive and costly, especially when looking at fulfillment costs as a percentage of profit margin on the product sale. WMS was the second most frequently selected investment choice, unsurprisingly given its role as the backbone of warehouse operations. For automation, conveyors/sortation was the most popular investment choice, followed by pick-to-light/put-to-light. The responses for conveyors likely reflect the high level of conveyor/sortation use in North America, as compared to Europe, and pick-to-light is often considered a low risk entry into automation that is especially valuable in a direct-to-consumer environment.” 

For more insight on the importance of WMS, read: What's the cost of poor warehouse management? 

Mobility in the Warehouse

In a recent Q&A with Modern Materials Handling, David Krebs of VDC Research shared recent findings from a study the firm fielded that shed light on the growing importance of mobility in the supply chain: 

The top three pressures driving investment in mobile solutions for supply chain operations include (1) customers demanding orders faster; (2) high cost of labor; and (3) reducing the cost of fulfillment errors. There are other factors as well, including the end of life in 2020 of the primary operating system running on the vast majority of devices and the growing requirement for mobile solutions that are more intuitive and easier to learn. Considering the large number of temporary or seasonal workers supporting supply chain operations, especially in the warehouse, it’s increasingly important.”

Read Snapfulfil’s take on Cloud vs. SaaS.

IoT and the Need for Data Storage in the Supply Chain

In the past, Gartner has predicted that the Internet of Things (IoT) is forecasted to reach 26 billion installed units by 2020 and will impact the information available to supply chain leaders and how the supply chain operates, depending on industry.  

In key findings from Gartner’s Top Strategic Predictions for 2017 and Beyond report, the analyst firm signals a rise in storage demand for vendors in the supply chain. Per Gartner, there will be massive potential for data generation in 2020, with 21 billion IoT endpoints estimated to be in use; however, only a fraction of this data will actually be retained and stored. 

Here are four signs it's time for a new WMS that can keep up. 

What do you think? How have you planned to address these changes in the year ahead? What challenges and opportunities will your warehouse face in 2017?

 

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