Every year, the material handling industry continues to evolve. From increased automation to streamlined warehouses, you will discover many exciting new technologies developed in this sector. The innovation comes from a desire to optimize existing warehouse, distribution, and fulfillment strategies. These material handling solutions are designed to refine business processes and improve their overall efficiency.

Whether you are a retailer or a manufacturer, knowing the latest material handling trends can keep your business competitive. Some trends introduce you to new emerging technologies, which can help your business to save time and reduce costs. Other trends may involve adjustments to your supply chain, ensuring better optimization in the long term.

What’s new in the material handling industry? Check out five new material handling industry trends that have emerged in 2020:

1. Automated material handling technologies

Automation is one of the top material handling industry trends in 2020. For anybody familiar with this industry, the prevalence of automated technologies should come as no surprise. As retailers face increased competition and rising costs, the demand for high-performance robotic systems is increasing significantly. The market for new automated equipment is expected to grow 5.5% until 2024, potentially worth a whopping $190 billion.

The increased use of automation has led to more efficient processes within the production line. You will discover autonomous mobile robots (AMR) that can transport materials in warehouse environments. There are also technologies to increase the automation in conveyor driven processes. By using these automated systems in material handling, businesses have experienced improved accuracy, lowered labour costs, and increased productivity.

As the investments rise, expect to see more automated solutions in research and development. Don’t be surprised if the future of the material handling industry largely consists of automated technologies!

2. Streamlined warehouses

Another common trend in the material handling industry is streamlined warehouses. Material handling professionals have discovered efficient ways to optimize how warehouses are being used. With careful analysis of these facilities, businesses can reengineer their warehouses to save space, increase production capacity, and improve the product flow.

Various material handling solutions are utilized to streamline warehouse processes. For example, many businesses use different types of flow tools for their warehouses, including carton flow racks and customizable storage. These high-density storage solutions are great for maximizing physical space in warehouses. They also help to reduce travel time, since the materials are neatly coordinated in a central location.

3. Strategic warehouse locations

E-commerce is a rapidly increasing trend in the retail sector, which has impacted the processes in the material handling industry. Nowadays, there is fierce competition among online retailers. When purchasing e-commerce products, short shipping times are crucial for customer satisfaction. Being able to offer next-day shipping is valuable for today’s fast-paced customers.

To speed up the e-commerce fulfillment, many companies have opened additional warehouses in strategic locations. These warehouses are often near urban areas, where businesses can deliver their shipments quickly to as many people as possible. As speed becomes a priority, there is also a higher demand for material handling solutions that ensure accurate order fulfillment.

For retailers with low inventory needs, multi-tenant fulfillment centres are strategic alternatives to standard warehouses. They provide more scalable spaces for small and medium businesses to implement their production lines. These facilities are popular because they boast space flexibility, market proximity in urban areas, and reduced costs.

4. Procedures for retail returns

In the material handling industry, there have been new developments in the procedures for handling retail returns. For retailers, a flexible returns policy is necessary to ensure customer satisfaction. Yet, returns can be difficult to manage when businesses don’t have the right material handling processes in place. The returned items may become a sunk cost when you cannot resell these products afterwards.

To handle the different types of retail returns, many businesses are diversifying their material handling technologies. New procedures are being developed to repackage returned goods in a more cost-efficient way. The goal is to make your business processes more efficient, allowing you to restock and resell inventory in a better condition.

5. Competitive recruitment

As the material handling industry continues to grow, the recruitment process is becoming highly competitive. Businesses are focused on recruiting the most efficient, reliable, and safety-focused employees for their warehouses. As a result, their recruitment strategies have become more extensive. Job candidates may be required to possess certain skills or experience to secure a role in the material handing industry.

Going a step further than recruitment, businesses are also focused on development, mentorship, engagement, and retention in their workforce. Prioritizing employee engagement can help warehouse employees to feel more connected with the company. From improved communication to employee appreciation events, there’s a lot that manufacturers and retailers can do to boost employee engagement.

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