This year has required significant changes in how warehouses handle their operations. As we edge closer to 2021, many facilities will be deciding how to permanently implement these changes while incorporating new trends.
In particular, trends are showing that manufacturing businesses will be realigning their operations in the new year. Facilities will be devising smarter innovations to continue to adapt to the COVID-19 and stay ahead of the competition. Below are some of the hot trends in manufacturing expected in 2021:
New Shipping Innovations
The supply chain plays a critical role in running any business, and keeping the flow of goods and services uninterrupted is hugely pivotal for success. As we step into 2021, here are some of the shipping and supply chain trends that will redefine manufacturing:
Widespread Adoption of Blockchain
There’s a need to do away with orthodox communication methods, data analysis and critical company data sharing. Adopting blockchain technology in 2021 will revamp the supply chain network by promoting transparency and data security now and in the future.
Automated Communication and Smart Contracts
Supply chain managers will be looking to save on costs and time by automating essential functions, like invoicing and keeping shippers updated in real-time. That’s why more and more facilities are considering switching to smart contacts. Smart contracts allow for warehouses to facilitate and enforce the terms of client agreements automatically. These will help reorganize supply chain management by automatically executing actions once specific protocols are observed.
Working with 3PLs
Working with third-party logistics is predicted to be a top best practice in 2021. These 3PLs will help cut costs, allowing more time to focus on production. By outsourcing shipping and logistics functions, manufacturing companies will be focusing on critical business aspects like enhancing customer service and improving workflows.
Despite the pandemic’s persistence, warehouses have continued to persevere. But we’ve been left with one question: what must we do to protect our health and keep the operations feasible in 2021? Here are some of the solutions we’ll be seeing this year:
More Prevalent Wearables
Warehouses are action-packed places filled with lots of movements. But remember, workers still need to keep social distance as the pandemic persists. This is where wearables will come in. We’re likely to see more manufacturers using technology to monitor productivity and steps while enforcing social distancing among employees.
For example, this can be helpful for the picking process. Employees wear headsets with a microphone connected to voice-activated technology. This allows employees to receive picking information via an automated voice without needing to circle back or refer to paperwork.
Running a warehouse involves lots of handy work like loading a track, scanning, sorting and packing items. This can be task-demanding and detrimental to employee productivity. But with the introduction of voice activation technology, employees will perform almost any task hands-free, meaning they can multitask without tiring.
For example, this can be helpful for the picking process. Employees wear headsets with a microphone connected to voice-activated technology, and this voice gives picking specifics to employees without them needing to constantly go back and forth or refer to paperwork.
New Safety Regulations
Solidifying employee safety continues to be a significant focus area as we edge closer to 2021. Although employee safety has always been a priority regardless of time or season, below are some best practices that are likely to take full effect going forward:
Proactive, Not Reactive
Until recently, companies spent more time and resources remediating risks after they occur rather than preventing them from occurring in the first place. But with COVID-19 having acted as an eye-opener, we’ll see companies’ health and safety departments shifting from mitigating to identifying risks and devising a prevention program before they occur. This will involve emphasis on training, awareness creation, and adoption of practices like predictive maintenance.
Personal Protective Equipment
On top of the basics (gloves, hard hats, earplugs, eye protectors, full-body suits, etc.), 2021 will also prioritize the use of smart equipment in worksites. We’re talking about clothing with sensors that can track, collect, and record essential data like movement, biometrics, or location in real-time.
Additional Work Training
Before COVID, people would mingle freely, shake hands and even work online without any health risks. But that’s no longer the case. It’s overly essential for companies to retrain their employees in preparation for the new normal. Doing this consistently will help further your employee’s professional knowledge, increase productivity and reduce your number of warehouse injuries.
Material Handling Technologies
Since the start of COVID-19, we’ve witnessed a boom in e-commerce order fulfillment demands, sparking the need for automation and streamlined warehouse processes. For manufacturers to keep up with the changing customer preferences and shipping expectations, they must leverage smart material handling strategies. Here’s what’s in store for manufacturers in 2021:
Hand-in-hand with enhancing employee safety and streamlining efficiency, we’re likely to see more companies adopting the use of industrial manipulators in 2021. These machines will come in handy as warehouses continue to strive towards optimization and lower injury risks.
Industrial manipulators are frequently used when:
- A product is too heavy for a person to move manually
- A product must be moved to a location that is not easily or quickly accessible for a person to reach, like a very tall shelf
- A person will be put at risk for injury if they move a product manually
- A person will quickly fatigue from moving products manually
- A high volume of product must be moved in a timely fashion
Unlike the past, when companies relied on physical observation to make inventory decisions, 2021 is likely to be the breakthrough year for using technology in product handling. This includes using handheld devices with sensors to track and record critical warehouse data to increase warehouse visibility. These devices can measure dimensions, light, vibration, temperature/humidity, and other metrics in the production plants and the warehouses. They can also help management keep track of storage conditions and inventory management.
Now that we’ve discussed the top warehousing trends for 2021, it’s time to start implementing these new practices now to stay ahead of your competition. The sooner you’re able to adapt to new, helpful technologies, the better it will be for your workflow, employee productivity and cash flow maximization.
One thing’s for sure – in 2021, industrial manipulators will continue to grow in popularity. These material handlers are a crucial tool for revitalizing warehouses, saving time and keeping your employees safe. If you’re ready to discuss which material handling device could be right for you, contact us today.