Warehousing and storage in the UK has been going through significant change over the last decade. Consumer habits and the rise of the internet shopper has led to innovation in the industry, moving away from more traditional methods of storage.
This is an exciting time for the industry, and with a push to reduce the space that warehousing is currently using in the UK it will only lead to further modernisation in the coming years. Increasing global demand is projected to expand industry revenue, and with more activism popping up with regards to space, it is easy to see why many companies are looking to other countries for cost-effective ways of transporting goods throughout Europe and farther afield.
Refrigerated warehousing currently makes up about 15% of the storage requirement and is currently playing a vital role in the warehousing industry on a global scale. Along with storage of liquids, gases and agricultural commodities the specialised market for warehousing has seen a steady increase over the past few years and is predicted to stick to this trend, especially within the frozen-food industry.
The high demand for products from consumers has led to an industry that is ever changing and has pushed the boundaries of immediacy in warehousing. This on-demand era in which we are currently living adds convenience to our everyday lives; however, it has been championed by freight forwarders in the warehousing sector more than any other. With warehouses developing into new distribution centres, where goods can be finished, packed and held in preparation for final delivery, many freight forwarders can see the advantages to having wider gamut of services in one place.
The shift in purchasing behaviours has changed the very nature of the warehousing and distribution industry with e-commerce providers now almost forming their own sector and third-party logistics playing a bigger role than it ever has before.
Many facilities are also increasingly handling customer returns and waste management through reverse logistics, which is something of a revolution throughout the industry.
Delivery solutions have advanced rapidly due to technological growth over the past decade. It has never been easier to keep track of your warehouse stock using barcode scanners, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking systems, automated picking systems or voice-operated picking systems and there are certain to be more ways to track and monitor the progress of any of your cargo, at multiple destinations.
This instantaneous feed of information from a 3PL provider to their customer, and then direct to the retailer or final consumer, has become a central part to many operations, and something that many of us now simply cannot live without.
Shortages on the delivery front and lack of land and space are the obvious issues facing the warehousing and storage sector. However, with vehicle efficiency improving each year and route planning making drivers’ lives easier, the driver shortage is something which is currently being faced by many companies.
The need for storage space has also been mentioned by many influential figures and companies. Many have concluded that it is not about how much space you have; it is about optimising that space to avoid unnecessary labour. Making sure you are using the right stacking methods and are organised so as to avoid any unnecessary cargo lying around will, slowly but surely, curb the need for bulky warehouses taking up needed space. Others are coming up with utilising under-used spaces, such as underwater storage tanks or even using a more rigid stacking system to capitalise on any given area.
Warehousing and storage throughout the UK, and further afield, is a thriving industry. With annual growth the only question left to ask is, how can we create more space for our ever-growing storage needs?
Matt Dailly, Editor, FORWARDER magazine