Manufacturing as a whole has seen dramatic changes over the past few years. It’s a promising trend that is spurring new innovation and improved processes at every step of the supply chain.
From a warehouse and materials handing perspective, the change has meant greater efficiencies, newer technologies and streamlined services. Businesses realize the potential for streamlined materials handling and are eager to make long-overdue improvements. With a strengthening economy that is pushing ahead, expect manufacturing and warehouses to be at the center of continued change. Below are seven material handling trends to watch for in 2015.
1. The Demand for New Talent in the Workforce Will Increase in 2015 and Beyond.
A notable trend during the economic recovery has been that the talent pool for manufacturing has dwindled, leaving many key jobs unfulfilled. A large reason for this, and an indicator for what to expect in 2015, is the wave of retiring baby boomers. As the jobs themselves evolve along with technology, the aging talent pool is either moving on or stepping aside. It’s unlikely to slow in the next few years, so expect 2015 to be another year for rigorous recruiting efforts in manufacturing and materials handling.
2. Automation and Machines Will Play a Larger Role in the Workplace.
This industry is in the midst of a robotic revolution. Robots don’t get tired and they are incredibly accurate, and materials handling is an area where they thrive. With a fluctuating workforce and an increased emphasis on output and efficiencies, watch for a work environment that includes more and more automation in 2015.
3. Manufacturers will Maintain a Focus on Cost-Savings and Efficiency.
If manufacturers learned anything from the recession, it was how to cut costs to stay viable. Even with the recent upticks in consumer confidence and GDP, manufacturers are hesitant to spend without first exhausting all options to be more efficient on the front end. In 2015, expect them to continue to seek ways to cut costs. In some ways, those cost-cuttings could be lopsided toward the materials handling sector, because of the potential there for substantial savings. Processes will be streamlined — for example, warehouse layouts are likely to be restructured to improve overall workflow. Logistics and tracking software will grow in popularity.
4. Energy Efficiency Will Be a Major Focus.
With that same thinking, manufacturers and warehouse managers will keep an eye on savings that can result from cutting energy costs. Already, the trend is toward warehouses and facilities that make better use of windows for natural lighting, and older buildings have been renovated to reduce the amount of heated and cooled air that escapes buildings. New warehouse facilities will be built with sustainability in mind, with a greater focus on efficient transportation options, alternative power sources and more. Watch for this trend to play a greater role in the year ahead.
5. The Industry Will Be Driven By Innovation.
One of the exciting trends to emerge from the manufacturing recovery has been the accelerated pace of innovation — think additive manufacturing (i.e., 3D printing) and automation. It’s a race to find the most efficient ways to produce and move products. That means new technologies forklifting and transporting. It also means the development of better logistics software for sorting, locating, tracking and ultimately moving materials. With an economy that is expected to continue at a positive clip in 2015, expect more movement in and out of warehouses and more technologies that will make it easier to do your job.
6. Data Will Become Increasingly Important.
Materials handling facilities are realizing the potential of collecting and using data to improve efficiencies. As such, sensors and other data collection technologies have emerged. The results so far are promising, with many manufacturers using that data to monitor production and warehouse processes alike, and they are relying on sensors to alert them to technical issues before they become expensive problems. At every level of the supply chain, expect 2015 to see a rise of sensor technology which will be more affordable.
7. E-commerce Will Change How Warehouses are Managed.
While e-commerce and online retail have been in existence for some time now, a growing demand for information has required further innovation in the warehouse setting. Retailers are promising real-time tracking, and it’s partly on material handlers to deliver on that promise. By some estimates, all shipments will be trackable in real time by the year 2025. That includes any time spent in a warehouse, either from manufacturers and wholesalers or in transit. The implications for materials handling facilities over the next few years are that they must start adapting now — and there’s no better year to get started than 2015.
Jerry Matos is the Product Specialist at Cherry’s Industrial Equipment. Cherry’s Industrial Equipment is a material handling equipment manufacturer that will design equipment to meet your specific warehouse or industrial needs.