7 trends for the warehouse of the future

The time when everyone went to the shops for groceries seems to be long gone. Everything you find in the shops is also available online. And consumers are enthusiastically taking advantage of this development. As a result of the growth of e-commerce in the retail sector, warehouses and storage spaces also need to grow and go for a smarter approach. They must adapt in order to become as efficient, cost-saving and fast as possible.

Not only the retail sector is growing. Other sectors (production, transport and wholesale trade) are also at the start of a new era. According to Daniel Dombach, Industry Solutions EMEA manager at Zebra, over the coming years the number of distribution centres will grow by no less than one third. Whether consumers or producers, we all want our orders delivered as fast as possible. Therefore, according to Dombach, it is all about proximity. If a certain product always has to come to Brussels from a distribution centre in Milan, it is impossible to receive this order on the same day or at the latest the next day. If warehouses, storage spaces and distribution centres want to cater for this trend, they need to change drastically and invest in new technologies. As in the retail sector, other sectors will also need to think up new strategies to act faster and more efficiently and achieve more cost savings.

The transformation of the supply chain of products results in an essential upgrade of today's warehouses. This upgrade must lead to increased productivity, reduced transport costs, responsiveness to customers and fast deliveries. In order to be able to fully support this growth in the warehouse sector, today's Waerhouse of the Futurewarehouses need to undergo quite a few changes.

Zebra has conducted a survey among managers of companies located in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK with an annual turnover of at least $15 million which are active in production, retail, wholesale and transport, among others. These managers have 7 trends in mind to optimise the supply chain in the various sectors and be able to respond to the expected growth.


  1. Personnel must be provided with new technologies

There is a need for new technologies that ensure greater visibility and automation throughout the different processes in the warehouse. This goes from order picking to the packing and loading of goods. For instance, 66% of the managers surveyed plan to provide their workers with new technologies over the coming years.

  1. The use of barcode scanning will grow

Over the next 5 years, the importance of barcode scanning will gradually increase. This results in greater efficiency, automation and time savings when making inventories. 63% of the managers surveyed are thinking of investing (more) in the use of barcodes.

  1. Personnel switch from pen and paper to mobile devices

Goodbye to pen and paper: workers are provided with mobile devices to carry out a large number of actions. No less than 62% of managers are planning a purchase of mobile devices for their employees. These are easy to use, provide real-time access to all systems in the warehouse, and reduce the risk of human errors.

  1. Connected devices (IoT) increase precision and productivity

Connected technology (Internet of Things) facilitates real-time interaction with employees. Thanks to this change, personnel productivity and precision increase. 58% of the managers surveyed agree with this trend. In a few years, drones will be flying through warehouses to take stock, and smart cameras will be able to determine the percentage of loading of a lorry or pallet.

  1. The importance of RFID is increasing

Thanks to RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology, it is easier to see, for instance, where each pallet of products is located at a given moment. Managers plan to double the use of RFID by 2020 because RFID systems are able to boost the efficiency of the entire process. 38% of them are convinced that this trend is a huge added value for their companies.

  1. From traditional WMS to BoB WMS and RTLS

Traditional WMS systems are almost passé. Many managers are changing to new, comprehensive, best-of-breed WMS and Real Time Location Systems. In 2020, 73% of Warehouse Management Systems will be working with best-of-breed WMS. For RTLS this will even be 77%.

  1. New inventory systems

The automation of inventory management systems is one of the many investments managers need to consider. An inventory management system is often the heart of a warehouse. These systems reduce out-of-stocks, shorten delivery times and improve the service to customers. Predictions are that by 2020, 85% of all employees in warehouses and distribution centres will be able to work with a tablet or computer. Currently only 36% of employees can work with an RFID system. Managers expect this figure to increase to as high as 89% of workers by 2020.


Go green

In addition to these 7 clear trends, there is another trend that transcends all others. In the coming years, warehouses will need to give top priority to the environment. This means that in future, recycled materials will be used, energy consumption will be reduced through the purchase of the right materials, and a range of other options. Ecological entrepreneurship is no longer a high cost; it is a way to save.

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