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All the news that's fit to pack: The top fulfillment stories of 2018

27 December 2018 / by Kirk Anderson, Executive VP for SnapFulfil North America

2018 has been a year of evolution for the supply chain. From new technology and processes to shifting consumer desires and expectations, the warehouse has faced its share of disruptions while adapting to changing demands. 

As 2018 comes to a close, let’s take a stroll down memory lane with three of the top warehousing stories of the year: 

Story 1: Retailers continue to seek new ways of tracking data: warehouse wearables

At the beginning of the year, Amazon announced an innovation to revolutionize the supply chain – its own warehouse wearable. Amazon’s device will track employee movements as they pick and pack, unlocking a new world of data to streamline warehouse operations. While the device faced some criticism, Snapfulfil explored the benefits this new product could mean for the warehouse – both for productivity and the bottom line. 

These wearables offer many advantages for the warehouse. They remain independent of Wi-Fi, leaving more bandwidth for other, pricier warehouse technology. They also allow for employee location tracking to better manage labor efficiency, and they measure time spent and effort exerted on each task. Using these wearables, Amazon management will gain a deeper understanding of the positives – and negatives – of their current processes. 

Though these devices have yet to be fully implemented, 2019 will likely provide some measurable results as warehouse wearables continue to evolve. 

Story 2: New warehouse space is at its lowest availability in nearly 20 years

The growing demand from retail and eCommerce continues to take a toll on warehouse availability across the United States. CBRE recently released a new report stating that in Q3 2018, U.S. industrial real estate availability declined for the 33rd consecutive quarter, hitting its lowest point since 2000 – 7.1 percent. 

An additional CBRE report found that a significant portion of U.S. warehouse space is more than 50 years old. This combination of a space shortage and dated facilities means warehouses need to utilize their space as efficiently as possible. Leveraging inventory data from a best-of-breed warehouse management system (WMS) can help ensure warehouses don’t waste space on unsold inventory by providing managers with insight into how much excess stock they have, as well as with inventory turnover rates. 

Additionally, a WMS can help managers identify strategies for improvement when planning their layout, such as utilizing vertical space or installing different racking and slotting faces. 

As we roll into 2019, it doesn’t appear this trend will reverse – so if you’re looking to expand your operations, you’ll need to think creatively about how to maximize your current space.

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Story 3: Retailer-owned holidays are bigger than ever

It’s no surprise that Amazon was a major player in many of 2018’s biggest supply chain stories. Amazon Prime Day, July 16th, was no different. Though web outages caused a somewhat rocky start to the day, Amazon quickly fixed the issue and still managed to reach the highest volume of sales of any Amazon Prime Day. Buyers purchased more than 100 million items. 

This year’s Prime Day also highlighted omnichannel operations, with Amazon-owned Whole Foods adding brick-and-mortar sales to the mix. Between managing physical locations, eCommerce and fulfillment operations, Amazon Prime Day offered many valuable lessons for supply chain consistency and customer experience. 

Chances are, we’re in for another record Amazon Prime Day in 2019. 

What’s next?

With new technologies, more fulfillment channels and higher consumer expectations, 2018 had no shortage of game-changing fulfillment stories. These innovations set the stage for an even more successful 2019 within the supply chain – a topic we’ll cover next week, as we explore the trends that will capture attention in the new year.

 

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