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Warehouse Trends: What to Expect in 2018

12.13.2017 | By Chris Pickett | 3 min. read

Increased consumer demand for online retail options has spurred real estate developers to create larger warehouse buildings that ease distribution worries. That means bigger spaces with taller shelves that accommodate more product. This allows retailers to store product strategically and to deliver items faster. So what specific warehouse trends can you expect to see in 2018? Read on to find out.

There Will Be Bigger, Taller Buildings

In September 2017, the construction industry poured $2.6 billion into building larger, taller warehouses that can handle e-commerce growth. Today’s warehouse is made up of as many as 188,000 square feet, which is more than double the size of warehouse buildings constructed back in 2001.

This significant size increase has required builders to make creative changes to their construction process. Their goal is to make massive warehouses that can store more product. But they also have to make structures stable and safe enough to handle the excessive weight of their contents.

Tall vertical shelves allow for additional storage. But these shelves – along with pallets, racks, and merchandise – all put a hefty strain on the floor. Forklifts, pallet movers, and other equipment, which are big and heavy, also have to be able to safely maneuver throughout the building.

To accommodate, builders are pouring thick concrete floors that can bear more weight. But that’s not the only structural change. Ceilings that have historically been 24 feet high are soaring to 30 and 40 feet to allow for more usable vertical storage space.

Technology Will Be Used to Optimize Operations

With larger warehouses, owners need better supply chain technologies to help optimize day-to-day tasks. That’s why organization, inventory management, storage optimization, and streamlined order picking tools are critical to keeping large warehouses operating smoothly.

To solve for this, warehouse owners are turning to automation in the form of robots, radio frequency sensors, software, and beacons. Together, these tools are used to locate, pick, and package products, control inventory, and more.

Additionally, big warehouse companies like Amazon are pouring millions into building new automated tools. One of the most promising developments to date is the creation of tote shuttles – robotic carriages that move scanned products down aisles and onto mobile shelves. Once full, the whole setup gets pushed over to manned stations and conveyors, where orders are checked and packaged.

Rising Operational Costs

As warehouses and operations grow, so do costs associated with doing business. As technology continues to advance, warehouse automation will offer a way for some owners to keep costs in check. However, those with tighter budgets may be forced to get creative when it comes to scaling their business without incurring significant new debt.

Watch for the above trends as we move into 2018, and expect to see more evolution in the warehouse space as e-commerce becomes more predominant throughout the next several years.

Explore the Flock Freight blog and read up on the latest trends in the freight industry.