The E-commerce market has been rapidly expanding in the past couple of years and this has had an enormous effect on several industries. It’s no surprise that warehouses have been drastically altered by E-commerce. After all, every shipment is first transported to a warehouse before being sent directly to a consumer or business. The sheer number of shipments being sent every day has made it difficult to operate a standard warehouse. This is why warehouses are constantly improving and adapting to new technology to better handle this influx of business. Here are some of the more significant ways that E-commerce has affected warehouses.
Smaller and more frequent orders
Warehouses are constantly adapting to the rising needs of consumers. Quick and efficient shipping is in high-demand right now. People want their orders to arrive on time and without issues. This has led to some fundamental changes in the material and product handling industries.
For one, the size of most shipments has decreased. Instead of transporting shipments in large bulks, warehouses opt to transport smaller shipments more frequently. This allows them to get the product to consumers quickly and without delays.
When there is a large number of shipments of various items, buying them in bulk doesn’t help much. The excess products left over will only take up space in the warehouse. Who knows if consumers will order enough of a specific item to make up for the extra storage? On the other hand, individual shipments are guaranteed to get delivered and they won’t take up any extra space.
Warehouse growth spurts
Today’s warehouses are seeing a bunch of physical changes as well as logistical ones. The massive increase in E-commerce shipments has led to an increase in the physical size of warehouses. They need to be able to accommodate a new generation of E-commerce shipments. Not to mention, this market is showing no signs of letting up, so warehouses can expect even more business in the future.
Warehouses are getting bigger in every sense of the word not only is the average warehouse increasing in volume, but their storage logistics also accommodate this increase. Previously, warehouses were pretty inefficient with their usage of storage space. There was a lot more leeway before. Nowadays, every square inch of the warehouse surface is utilized for maximum efficiency of storage.
Proximity to population centres
Until relatively recently, warehouses were housed at the outskirts of large cities or towns. You wouldn’t run into one unless you were specifically looking for it, or you happened to pass it by while travelling. Despite how important delivery times were, they did not justify the higher price of real estate that warehouse owners would have to pay to get their humongous building closer to a big city. Not to mention, having a warehouse at some big crossroads far from a city helps with transport and traffic times.
Current E-commerce markets are trending towards getting products to consumers as soon as possible. Shipping and delivery times are now one of the highest priorities of these businesses. If a competitor is able to deliver products sooner, the business will hemorrhage profits. Getting as close to population centres as possible is now a big priority for storage facilities. The real-estate costs don’t come close to the potential profits that proximity brings. This is why warehouses are slowly inching their way towards population centres, hoping to be as close to consumers as possible.
Compact and efficient equipment
Warehouses have a wide variety of machines and equipment that are essential for certain kinds of work. Transporting large numbers of shipments and heavy loads requires powerful machinery such as cranes and forklifts. These machines are staples of warehouse work and they haven’t seen many improvements until recently.
Modern warehouses strive for maximum efficiency in their work, and this includes getting the most up-to-date and efficient equipment available. Regular diesel forklifts are slowly being phased out in favour of electric forklifts. They are considered better for the environment and they’re pretty compact, giving them more maneuverability.
Air skids are another new and compact tool used in modern warehouses. Personnel can use air skids to move very large loads without issues. They create a cushion of air beneath them, allowing for a smooth ride for any load that is being transported. It’s a lot simpler than using a huge crane to lift the load. Plus, these skids take up nearly no space, making it very easy to store them when they are not in use.
Flexible barcoding solutions
Dealing with such a large number of shipments comes with some specific drawbacks. With a smaller number, a warehouse could handle the occasional return and manually repackage the product for a later shipment. However, this simply isn’t possible with the sheer volume of shipments that leave the warehouse on a daily basis.
This is why barcodes and scanners are used to quickly identify shipments and store them where necessary without involving a lot of thinking or planning. The automatic system is a lot quicker and more efficient than handling the shipments manually. Barcodes need to be able to stick to many different surfaces so that every product can be marked with one. Modern flexible barcoding solutions do just that. At the same time, they are easily removed from a package or product, which means they can be repositioned on another shipment. This allows the system to better locate and store shipments all over the warehouse, without any worry of them getting lost or improperly stored.
Warehouses have drastically improved their logistics and efficiency with the rise of E-commerce. It’s both a blessing and a curse for warehouse managers. Business has increased, but there’s also enormous pressure to innovate and find ways to increase efficiency on the work floor. Luckily, this isn’t too difficult to achieve, as long as you have the right inspiration. Most modern warehouses have already seen many of these changes, which is why introducing more doesn’t seem to be a problem. If the current trends in E-commerce continue, warehouses are poised to evolve even further with their logistics and storage.