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2020 Trends to Watch For in Warehouse Management

23 December 2019 / by Chris Anton, Executive VP for SnapFulfil North America

Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant in life is change.” This is certainly true for the retail warehouse environment of 2019, where expectations have been to keep up with shoppers’ shifting purchasing habits, continually tweak fulfillment strategies and invest in innovative technologies such as robotics and AI. It’s been a decade of great evolution for the supply chain, and that evolution shows no sign of slowing down in the ‘20s.

Now that we’ve reached December, it’s time to reflect on what we learned this year – and how those findings will change operations in the new year. Here’s our annual list of the top warehouse management trends to watch:

Robots are friends, not foes

Although robots are becoming more important in the warehouse, investing in an Amazon-style goods-to-person robotics solution is out-of-reach for many small- to medium-sized businesses. Such a solution requires businesses to gut their warehouses and redesign from the ground up, and leads to questions around the role humans will play in tomorrow’s fulfillment operations. Instead, in 2020, more brands will focus on implementing robots into their existing person-to-goods operations, rather than tearing the whole thing down for robots.

Solutions such as our new SnapCart fill that gap, introducing a cellular picking model that keeps pickers within a set zone and sends robots to them to pick up items. Cellular picking reduces an employee’s physical strain and helps the warehouse move items from picking to packing more efficiently.

For more information, take a look at our blog post on implementing automation with a human touch

A better user experience in the warehouse

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Demand for “experience” is on the rise – according to Salesforce, 80 percent of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. But customers aren’t the only ones requesting better experiences. Warehouse managers want a better user experience from their warehouse management software (WMS) – and the offerings that don’t deliver will struggle to keep up.

Because 2020 will bring new challenges to getting packages out on time, warehouse managers want WMS offerings with simplified user interfaces, allowing them to onboard temporary employees quicker (especially during peak season). They’re also looking for easier access to process data, helping them track warehouse efficiency and make more educated decisions to streamline operations.

We wrote more about the WMS UX earlier this year – get our take on how to provide a better user experience.

Heightened security regulations are here

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, California will introduce the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and any retailer doing business in the Golden State must be compliant. The landmark data law follows in the footsteps of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enacted in 2018.

The law will affect tech giants, retailers and warehouses, too, as it allows Americans to demand companies disclose what personal data they’ve collected and also request those organizations to delete their data. Consumers can also forbid companies from sharing their information with third parties. The penalties could be steep for warehouses that don’t comply.

Earlier this year, we wrote about certain steps a warehouse should take to meet GDPR standards; if you’re still not up to code on GDPR or need a quick reminder, take a look at our blog post here. 

Customer service can set you apart

Customers who stick around after poor service are rare, especially when it’s repeated. In fact, according to NewVoiceMedia, poor customer service costs businesses more than $75 billion a year. But customer service extends to relationships between retailers and suppliers – including their supply chain technology vendors.

Your WMS software is only as good as the team installing and supporting it. Therefore, providing a quick and accurate response to customers around logistics and supply chain operations is critical. In 2020, having a strong support team ready to assist customers 24/7 will be almost as important as the solution itself.

Read more about how SnapFulfil approaches customer service in this blog post.   

Looking ahead

The new year – and new decade – is bound to be filled with interesting challenges and exciting opportunities in your warehouse. Check the SnapFulfil blog often for an attention-grabbing slate of timely topics lined up for 2020!

 

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