“What are the top trends in warehousing for 2002?”
Supply chain initiatives are becoming a competitive edge. In fact, CEOs are citing supply chain breakdowns as reasons for earnings failures. When it comes to people, it’s no longer enough to just be a good manager. Warehouse managers must also be leaders. Work with your supervisors on how to train and motivate diverse groups of people. Offering rewards will be important, but they will be different rewards. For example, one company provides retirement planning services for employees.
Leslie Hansen Harps
Leslie Harps Communications
Retailers have traditionally provided their own warehousing services, but now sales channel lines have blurred, and retailers are much more invested in finding outside service providers. It will also be much more important to get the right goods to the right customer at the right time. A quantum leap in technology is required to do this, but it is vital for warehousing. A third trend is that B2B exchanges and auctions provide many opportunities and challenges — they’re not short-term hype. They’ll be used to level the playing field. Warehouses are no longer just providers of covered space, they’re providers of services.
Clifford K. Otto
Senior Vice President
I think it’s the ability to handle smaller and smaller orders — for example, people may order one tube of lipstick. It’s going to be very expensive to fulfill that, but you need to be flexible enough to handle it. We give our customers the option of getting the order tomorrow and paying more, or getting it later and paying a lot less. You have to meet your customers’ expectations, otherwise you won’t have repeat business.
Paul A. Slack
Manager, Distribution Engineering
Access Business Group
People are getting away from cost-effective operations, and we need to get back to them. The Web has created a lot of fictitious expectations — people who shop online believe that instant information translates into instant product. We shouldn’t try to meet unrealistic expectations.
Vice President, Call Center Operations
Shaker Heights, OH
I think that we will see different types of warehouses that are small, local facilities catering to the last mile. These “mini-warehouses” could be for distributors of any goods that have a high replacement rate, and would increase the logistics efficiency of direct delivery to customers.
Paul Larson, Ph.D.
Department of Managerial Sciences
University of Nevada, Reno
The promise of greater efficiency has yet to be realized. We will see change in infrastructure and operations as the warehouse takes on more quasi-manufacturing functions, such as postponement, palletization, and so on. We can expect continued integration among systems and functions within firms. At a time of economic slowdown, there will be greater pressure to improve efficiency, but less money to spend on it. It’s a hockey stick curve, but we don’t know how long the handle is.
James L. Ginter, Ph.D.
Professor, Fisher College of Business
The Ohio State University
There is a lot of learning — e-commerce has dropped. The ability to accommodate growth without building too much infrastructure will be the trend. More and more, companies will work to get higher economy out of the warehouse space they already have. Companies have underestimated capacity; there will be a greater focus on maximizing existing capacity without sacrificing the ability to meet demand. Merchants’ forecasts led them to invest for five or ten years instead of for one or two and building up as needed. As they head toward profitability, companies will look to reduce infrastructure, keeping costs as low as possible.
Vice President of Logistics
Santa Monica, CA