David Norton, vice president of customer solutions and support at The Raymond Corporation
Ongoing supply chain disruptions and challenges have had a significant and lasting impact on the material handling industry over the past year. Increased customer demand stemming from these challenges has caused extreme backlogs, lasting delays, and skyrocketing prices, while labor shortages continue to rise.
With continued labor shortages, the supply chain industry is busier than ever, but employers still have issues finding skilled workers to fill positions. Maximizing existing labor with tools, like operator assist technologies or virtual reality training, can help companies increase efficiency, reinforce training, and improve operator productivity while on the job.
Automation will become increasingly important in supply chains to counteract labor shortages to ensure businesses are able to remain productive with existing materials. For example, automated equipment, such as vision-guided automated lift trucks, can free up the workforce to focus on more specialized jobs that otherwise could be difficult to fill due to labor shortages. Flexible automated solutions also allow companies to shift and scale operations to meet changing demand quickly.
Rise in ecommerce
As the industry evolves, technology will continue to drive the supply chain industry. For example, telematics data will continue to play a significant role in business decision making allowing managers to gather valuable real-time data on their fleet and workforce. Leveraging technology also helps reinforce operator behaviors using digital operator checklists and tracking to reinforce correct operator behaviors. In addition, real-time location systems can help monitor fleets and provide insights to help identify efficiencies and process improvements.
As uncertainty across the supply chain continues, implementing Lean principles will continue to show unmatched benefits in the industry. While there may be a need to increase investment in physical infrastructure to meet continued consumer demand, it will also be essential to continue to invest in a creating a culture of continuous improvement to help maximize efficiency and increase the bottom line as resources remain scarce. Implementing lean principles can help companies maximize production with existing space and resources while improving efficiency to meet shifting demands and challenges. A “one size fits all” solution isn’t the norm anymore and leveraging lean practices allows companies to quickly identify what solutions do or don’t work for their business to ensure they remain productive.
Finally, sustainability across the supply chain will become a greater focus as businesses look to reduce their environmental impact. As more manufacturers and companies emphasize sustainability, they will be looking to their supply chain partners to identify areas to improve sustainability practices. To support those demands, newer technologies and energy efficient power solutions will help improve sustainability in existing facilities while increasing productivity. Alternative energy solutions, like lithium-ion batteries, can also help customers reduce environmental impact throughout the supply chain and improve productivity through decreased charging downtimes.
As the material handling industry continues to face ongoing disruptions, working with a trusted partner to help build a culture of continuous improvement across operations and identify the right products and solutions to ensure operations remain flexible will be key in 2022 and beyond.