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The new year offers new challenges to warehouses and distribution centers, as well as solutions that will influence the entire industry.

Every person around the world relies on logistics. Whenever we talk about this process, we mainly think about the transportation side of the supply chain, where manufacturers ship finished products to retailers who then sell the product to customers at point-of-sale machines. However, this process has even greater capabilities.

Logistics involves gathering data from all points of the supply chain, from the moment when you contact a supplier to obtain raw materials to the point a customer’s order is tracked to the end destination. This necessary information is extrapolated and used to make a supply chain more efficient and cost effective. The latest trends in logistics and supply chain management will focus on this big data, how it is gathered, and how it will be implemented in processes and equipment in order for companies to stay competitive.

Warehousing Technology Trends

Warehouse technology trends will still revolve around inventory visibility and process automation throughout 2021. However, sustainability has a growing influence in the manufacturing industry. Customers are now using their buying power to hold companies accountable regarding conservation, natural resources, and other environmentally friendly practices.

Trends to watch for in the coming year include:

1. Sustainability

Customers are becoming more eco-centric. They want to ensure that they are helping reduce the waste that is going to landfills while preserving the environment and using fewer natural resources. These buyers want every facet of their lives to promote sustainability. Therefore, they are more inclined to shop at companies whose supply chain strategies adopt these ideals.

More than half of all millennials — about 66% — are likely to purchase products from a company that has well-developed eco-friendly processes. In addition, brands saw 5.6% growth when publicly advocating for sustainability.

The adoption of sustainability practices is profitable and saleable, as it can involve many forms. From using less packaging to strategically placing warehouses and fulfillment centers closer to customers to lower fuel costs, companies are taking advantage of this trend to positively market their brands while developing loyal customer bases.

2. Robotics and AI

Robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) has been widely talked about for the last two decades. While we are slowly making gains with machine learning and robotics, AI still appears to be in its infancy — especially as companies are testing where this technology would best fit in their operations.

For warehousing, AI and machine learning are being used to reduce and streamline repetitive tasks as well as to provide enhanced customer service. From chatbots being available 24/7 to handle customer orders or concerns, to machine learning that helps track inventory levels and automatically place orders with suppliers, these trends can be immediately implemented in many organizations.

Robotics, on the other hand, has become more advanced in manufacturing operations and is slowly making its way into the warehouse scene. Robots are being used as part of shuttle systems to provide automated inventory storage and product retrieval. They are also being found in warehouse cleaning services such as autonomous floor scrubbers. With demand accelerating for these systems in the e-commerce market, robotics will continue to be a large part of warehouse strategies.

3. Blockchain and Big Data

Blockchain and big data — along with the Internet of Things (IoT) — remain the top developments in terms of warehousing and third-party logistics industry trends. How data is gathered, where it is gathered, and pulling the right information from it are the foremost strategies employed by most companies.

With quality data analysis involved with big data, warehouses should be able to build on operational strengths, locate process gaps that need remediation, and further enhance the customer’s experience. Additionally, blockchain continues to provide greater levels of transparency in how data is being used and who is using it. Meanwhile, IoT is providing omnichannel access on where data can be gathered by interconnecting processes and machines into a centralized system.

The Future of the Logistics Industry 

One of the major challenges in logistics is allowing companies throughout the supply chain to interconnect processes and reduce redundancy. These logistics innovations will hopefully help companies succeed in these endeavors. The trends should allow more operating systems to be interconnected through the cloud; offer more accessibility to data for better marketing and sales strategies; and provide opportunities for more automated processes to reduce errors and minimize manual work.

Here at WSI, we provide a range of innovative solutions in third-party logistics to get products inventoried, stored, and shipped to their intended destinations. In addition, we offer comprehensive software solutions that we have branded as 360data™. This cloud-based application suite helps companies optimize supply chains so they can make operations more efficient and cost effective. Learn more about our solutions by contacting WSI today.

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