It has been reported that the COVID global pandemic accelerated the shift to the digital age by about three to four years. People everywhere were forced to rely more heavily on their devices for work, communication and entertainment. This shift also had a big impact on e-commerce and online shopping. As a result, many companies around the world including the UK have adapted their business plans to evolve with the changing trends.
Many organisations have moved away from brick and mortar stores and now sell primarily online. This in turn has resulted in an increased need for warehouse space and logistical support. For instance, electronics is a rapidly growing market with a predicted global consumer electronics spend of $1.06trn in 2021. As sales of electronics increase, the requirements for storing and shipping products has skyrocketed, and this is just one market area alone. Any business that is selling in the online space – whether it’s tech products, household goods, audio equipment, clothing or pet supplies – can benefit from optimising their warehousing and logistics set up.
Modern warehouse strategies
No matter what kind of inventory your business sells, operating an efficient and well laid-out warehouse is key to shipping orders in a timely and safe manner. Some companies may have an internal warehouse or system of storage facilities, while others may avail of a 3PL provider. This is ideal if you wish to simply optimize your fulfilment operations. Some key components of any successful warehouse facility include the following:
- Strong floor plan and layout that can be adapted as business needs evolve
- High-quality warehouse equipment such as ladders, pallet trucks, transport rollers and conveyor tables
- Stacker trucks, hoists and scissor lift tables let employees reach higher shelving safely and easily
- A shipping and packaging area with high quality, recyclable packaging
- Automated processes where possible, such as labelling and order picking
- Cranes and pallets make the movement of goods more efficient
- Reliable cleaning and sweeping processes and equipment go a long way in ensuring safety and reducing the risk of accidents
- If there are dangerous chemicals stored or used in a warehouse, hazardous waste handling equipment should be used
- For safety, markings and guidance systems should be used to lay out routes around the warehouse floor
One key and emerging area in warehouse optimisation is automation. This is a new and emerging way of working and operating a storage facility and truly is the way of the future. It is the process of automating the movement of goods into and out of the warehouse. There are processes that can be automated at all stages of the cycle. Benefits of automation include the elimination of the risk of human error, more efficient workflows and a more cost-effective set-up. Automation also lets businesses reduce repetitive and labour intensive tasks or those that require intense physical work that may be taxing or even dangerous for employees. Tedious manual tasks such as data entry and analysis can also be automated.
Booming e-commerce market
With the expansion and growth in e-commerce over the last number of year, the online shopping space offers a huge opportunity for e-commerce brands and businesses. The stats around Black Friday alone speak for themselves; delivery and warehouse shifts jumped in 2021 42% compared to 2020. If this trend continues, Black Friday 2022 spending is set to be huge. It is beneficial for businesses in the retail space to review their warehouse set up at least twice per year, perhaps even once per quarter, especially for brands in the FMCG space. This way, they remain ready for high seasonal moments such as Black Friday and Christmas. With smooth inventory control in place, there are fewer possibilities for error along the way, resulting in happy customers who receive their orders swiftly.
Whether your business has an on-site storage facility or system of warehouses, or you outsource this to a 3PL firm, be sure to optimise all areas of the logistics chain where possible. Address any pain points and ensure that safety standards are constantly in check. Reviewing and adapting your logistics plan and warehouse layout regularly is also recommended. This will result in smoother workflows and greater profits overall.