4 Warehousing and Distribution Strategies to Future-Proof Your Supply Chain (Plus a Bonus)

Your business is going global, customers are demanding faster fulfilment, and supply chain management is becoming increasingly complex. It’s a perfect storm of challenges that’s causing life sciences and technology leaders to rethink their entire supply chains.

One aspect of the supply chain that has experienced the most change in recent years is warehousing and distribution.

Demands and technologies will continuously change and put pressure on your supply chain design. But with the following strategies, you can future-proof your warehousing and distribution operations to avoid supply chain disruptions.

1. INVESTING IN WAREHOUSE AUTOMATION

This is the most tech-focused strategy for future-proofing warehousing and distribution. While most tech investments will have to be rethought as innovative solutions emerge, warehouse automation will set you up for ongoing success.

Warehouse automation is the use of various technologies—robotics, conveyors, cloud-based applications, etc.—to eliminate human error from operations. Automated tasks can include the retrieval, sorting, and packaging of inventory while humans replace low-level responsibilities for the management of tech solutions.

Investing in warehouse automation can help you unlock benefits such as:

  • Increased speed of order processing, product retrieval, and shipping preparation.
  • Decreased costs of warehouse operations by replacing manual labour for repetitive, low-level tasks.
  • Optimised space by reducing the number of humans on the warehouse floor and becoming more precise about aisle sizes and pallet organization.

While warehouse automation refers to specific, advanced technologies, it also ties into a more traditional strategy—making the most of warehouse management systems (WMS).

2. GETTING THE RIGHT WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Before there were robotics and other automation solutions, there were warehouse management systems that centralised management of production, scheduling, shipment planning, and order fulfilment.

Finding the right warehouse management system is essential to future-proofing your operations. When you have the right tools in place, your WMS will help managers proactively address issues across your warehouse. Not only that, but a strong warehouse management system provides the foundation for optimising labour and operations before you try to take advantage of more advanced automated solutions.

A future-proof warehouse is one that can continuously maximize productivity no matter what technologies are introduced to the operation. Having a warehouse management system properly integrated into all systems and processes will help workers keep pace with order fulfilment demands.

Two businessman working in factory.

3. CREATING AN ADAPTABLE WAREHOUSE DESIGN

Perhaps the most important strategy for future-proofing warehousing and distribution is to assume that your situation will change. If you design your warehouse without the future in mind, you’ll likely have to start from scratch once demands and technology stretch your original plans past their limits.

Creating an adaptable warehouse design requires alignment across all departments. It’s not just about designing a floorplan that warehouse operations can buy into. Rather, you need everyone from engineering to IT, finance, customer service, purchasing, and manufacturing to provide ideas and requirements.

Leaders are shifting to a block layout for warehouse design, which include a “team build” approach that ensures changes can be made as new demands arise. As long as you keep workforce productivity in mind for the warehouse as a whole, you’ll be able to adapt your design in ways that balance operational efficiency with ever-increasing customer demands.

Architect Design Project Meeting Discussion Concept

4. SETTING BENCHMARKS FOR WAREHOUSING SUCCESS

One of the biggest challenges of future-proofing any aspect of your business is taking a proactive approach to change. It’s common to recognize the need for change once it’s already too late, forcing you to react to new demands as quickly as possible.

If you’re always rushing to address new demands, it’s almost impossible to get out ahead of the next changes in technology or business demands. That’s why setting internal benchmarks can be so valuable to future-proof warehousing and distribution.

Having benchmark goals for individual departments and high-level metrics gives you something to organize around. When you notice you’re struggling to meet your benchmarks, or you recognize you can improve upon the benchmarks you set, you can proactively change warehouse operations accordingly.

Proactively addressing performance challenges can help you minimize cost per order even as transaction volumes increase in the future.

BONUS STRATEGY: OUTSOURCE WAREHOUSING AND DISTRIBUTION

The best way to future-proof your warehousing and distribution is to shift from a traditional CapEx model to an outsourced OpEx model. Instead of constantly investing in new technologies and changes to your warehousing operations, you can lean on a 4PL provider to keep you ahead of the latest trends.

To help life sciences and technology companies future-proof the warehousing and distribution aspects of their supply chains, Exertis SCS offers managed services for global logistics requirements.

Our warehousing and shipping services include:

  • International warehousing through our global network of owned and third-party facilities.
  • GMP and GDP warehousing with state-of-the-art temperature control.
  • Global transportation with access to bulk lift rates on air, sea, and overland transport providers.
  • Cargo consolidation that guarantees excellent shipment rates for finished goods and raw materials inventory.
  • Customers and taxation management, including export, import, and local clearance and payments.

We’ve built a global footprint that helps us locally warehouse and transport your stock anywhere in the world.

If you want to learn how we can help you reduce lead time delivery and future-proof your warehousing operations, check out our Warehousing & Shipping services page.