Warehouses Are Smart: Are You?

Warehouses are growing. From the horrea of Ancient Rome (yes, really; the Romans invented warehousing) to the billions of square feet we currently dedicate to warehouse space in the UK, it’s safe to say that the sector is growing at an exponential rate. Consumer habits show an uptick in online shopping, unlikely to change even in a post-Covid environment, meaning that not only do warehouses need to continue their physical growth, they also need to strengthen from a technological perspective to cope with the logistical pressure of the online shopping revolution.

According to a recent report1, the number of warehousing units in the UK has risen by 32% and, not only that, the trend is leaning towards building bigger warehouses — a staggering 242% increase in units of 1m+ square feet with the average unit now being 340, 000 square feet, a 56.68% increase when compared to 2015 statistics. And floor space isn’t all that’s required; warehouses have also increased in height by 27.27% with the average eaves height increasing from 11 metres to 14 metres over the same time.

The government has pledged to build 300,000 new homes each year until the mid-2020s, which equates to over a million potential new delivery points. Warehouses need to make sure they are smart enough to cope with this rising demand; what works today may not be sufficient tomorrow. Even now, consumers are showing no signs of slowing down and retailers are adapting to the trend, closing their high-street premises and changing to online business models. This skews the dominant occupier profile of warehouses from retailers (the previous dominant occupiers) to third-party logistics (3PL), a sector that has resulted in an increase of warehouse occupancy by a massive 614%. This reflects consumer trends and a positive for 3PLs, but also highlights the continued and growing need for speedy and streamlined order fulfilment and management.

With warehouses operating on such a large scale, there is little choice than to move forwards with innovation, developing an adaptable and streamlined digital model. Processes of such magnitude are complex and to undertake each manually would call for an increased workforce size, with associated expense. Warehouses of the future will not necessarily reduce the size of workforce but will complement existing models by enhancing capabilities and automating systems, such as stock control and data gathering, in which human error can be costly.

Plastic returnable transit packaging (RTP) is undeniably part of this future: with its sustainability credentials coupled with durability, it is ripe for the digital evolution. Wood is the alternative, but it’s unreliable, both in quality and supply; recent challenges have included escalating costs and the lack of availability of lumber to build and repair pallets, resulting in a stuttering supply chain. The benefits of plastic pallets, from specification, sustainability and availability perspectives, offer a roadmap into an extensively digitised and automated warehouse environment, from stock tracking, warehouse management and automation processes, mitigating the risk of human error. Cost drove the original thought process behind RTP and continues to be a major factor — it is, unsurprisingly, returnable and reusable, reducing capital investment in alternatives such as cardboard.

Innovation has propelled companies forward, not least with accountability. If a package doesn’t arrive, we want to trace it. If goods arrive damaged, we want to know why. Plastic RTP offers the ability to enhance existing processes, and accountability will be a mere click away. We can equip plastic pallets with various sensors, including positioning technology, temperature gauges, impact sensors and other data relevant to the product, offering consumers, manufacturers and providers unprecedented levels of specifics that enable peace of mind. With evolution in mind, the risk of liability will lessen further as the monitoring levels become more precise — for example, a shock and vibration sensor would prove that an item wasn’t dropped in transit. In addition, IoT devices can reliably inform of a pallet’s journey, offering transparency not only with timescales but also carbon footprint and sustainability.

As always, customer growth results in an increased need for solutions, and consumer demand will always be the driving force behind change. Goplasticpallets.com continues to offer the most sustainable and robust solution for retailers and parcel logistics companies alike. By integrating the latest sensors and tracking technology into our infinitely adaptable pallets, we can future-proof your business.

We are ready for the future; are you?

For expert plastic pallet advice ASK GPP by calling the team on 01323 744057 or emailing [email protected]

RESOURCE: 1. https://www.ukwa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Savills-UKWA-A4-8pp-Report-Interactive3.pdf