Top 10 Material Handling Trends Changing the Industry
Is your company adapting to keep up with new trends and preparing for the future? In order to remain competitive, staying well informed of what’s coming ahead is essential. This article is based on information found in The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics: Why 2025 Matters Today by Josh Bond of Modern Materials Handling. The report combines knowledge and insight from over 100 industry experts to project material handling trends we can expect to see over the next decade. The following are 10 material handling trends making great changes and improvements in the material handling industry today and in the future.
1. Changing Workforce
The workforce in material handling is getting older, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified candidates entering the workforce who possess the necessary skills. The roadmap suggests that over the next decade, this industry should join with the government and educational system to help expand demographics to including women, younger workers, disabled workers, and veterans.
E-commerce growth has greatly increased the need for shipments to be trackable in real time from the moment an order is place to delivery. It’s also becoming more popular to have 2-day and same-day shipping for online orders, making it necessary to have inventory in-stock at multiple locations and same-day processing.
3. Persistent Competition
Competition is primarily defined by price and service. Over time, companies with faster and cheaper shipping times will likely lead the way in material handling.
4. Mass Personalization
As customized and personalized order requests become more common, businesses are required to have flexible manufacturing and automation systems. Also, consumers expect personalized goods at mass production prices. Businesses need to increase their capabilities to support more diverse orders with shorter turnaround times than in the past.
Over half the population lives in urban areas, and this number is expected to continue growing over the next decade. Smaller product quantities are being demanded in remote locations. The roadmap suggests that the 15 largest U.S. cities should each have at least one self-service parcel delivery kiosk available for use by a variety of retailers.
6. Mobile Devices
Now that a majority of the population uses mobile devices daily, these devices are being integrated into control systems and used as computing devices for transportation, warehousing, and manufacturing. Mobile devices have allowed consumers to purchase items from anywhere, with GPS tracking for streamlined delivery.
7. Robotics and Automation
Robotics and automation systems have helped businesses keep up with growing demands while remaining cost efficient. These advances in technology also assist in smooth order picking, real-time tracking, and many other processes. Robotic order picking systems are becoming more affordable and available in various versatile configurations to accommodate single piece picking in part-to-picker and picker-to-part configurations. Additionally, high-speed automation is leading to technology that can load and unload trucks at the pallet and carton level. Over the next decade, the material handling industry should expect to become more immersed in robotic and automated processes.
8. Sensors and Communication
Communication sensors can handle a variety of material handling applications, including tracking, maintenance sensing, and even decision making in regards to product orders and shipments. Sensor technology can help optimize speed and efficiency while reducing costs for warehouses moving forward.
9. Predictive Analytics
Analytics are becoming increasingly popular as companies have begun to more accurately predict demand during busy seasons, based on location, etc. The availability of accessible analytic data is changing the way companies make decisions related to logistics, supply, and other operations. Companies can now better prepare for busy seasons or product trends.
The industry has begun developing standard and accepted metrics to assess environmental impact. As consumers become better understanding of the environmental consequences of the products they purchase, transportation and material handling companies should continue working toward reducing their energy use and environmental footprint.
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