We’re in the 4th quarter of 2021, and the warehouse industry is definitely in a state of flux.
In short, the headlines of shipping delays, ports being closed, and driver shortages have left some warehouses empty, others filled to capacity, and a giant “middle ground” of full today, empty tomorrow, full again, how fast can you move the product in and out because people need it NOW”.
I talked to one warehouse manager who said “It’s nuts right now. We get delays on shipments in, but then when they do come in, the pressure to get it out fast is enormous. But it really boils down to “if you need it tomorrow, why didn’t the manufacturer get it here yesterday?”
So right now, speed and efficiency rules the day. And it’s this author’s opinion that this type of business practice is going to have a loooong shelf life. Warehouses are going to have to adjust to a new reality. More efficient layouts. Warehouse racks that are more flexible in terms of what goes in and out, and how fast. We saw the rise of JIT (Just in Time) retail operations in the 90’s, which made warehouses become more efficient. And we’re going to see similar changes in the future, but they are going to combine JIT with more flexibility.
In short, the more successful warehouse operations will need to have warehouse racks that can pull double and triple duty. Changing from one style to another, and flexible enough to store a multitude of different products in different sizes and weights. Because both now and tomorrow, the predictability of raw material availability is going to be spotty. The warehouse that always handled product X every summer might have to shift to product Y next year, then product Z the next, before we go back to X. And all three are different.