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2018 Warehouse/DC Operations Survey: Labor Crunch Driving Automation

The combined forces of a strong economy, e-commerce growth and a tight labor market are making it more important for distribution center (DC) operations to find ways to make their existing infrastructure and people more productive. Software and automation continue to prove to be a vital part of the solution.

By ·

The findings from our “2018 Warehouse and Distribution Center (DC) Operations Survey” cascade from strong economic growth and a tight labor market on the one hand, and e-commerce growth and order fulfillment complexities on the other. Strike these mega-trends against each other like flint against steel, and sparks will fly.

In fact, the labor crunch grew further as the No. 1 issue in the survey, while respondents report increased use of warehouse management systems (WMS) and other software, additional automation, and greater use of metrics and more advanced picking methods to cope with these challenges. A few of the highlights include:

  • Inability to attract and retain a qualified hourly workforce was the leading industry issue, cited by 55% of respondents, up 6% from last year;
  • the third year of asking about omni-channel fulfillment, 21% now say they have an omni-channel operation, up from 19% last year, while 40% say they support e-commerce fulfillment; and
  • use of some type of warehouse management system(WMS) reached 93%—the first time that response topped 90%.

The survey, conducted annually by Peerless Research Group on behalf of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group drew 138 responses this year from professionals in logistics and warehouse operations across multiple verticals. According to Norm Saenz, Jr., a managing director with St. Onge Company, and Don Derewecki, a senior consultant with St. Onge Company, a supply chain engineering consulting company and our partner for this annual survey, respondents are clearly seeking to apply technology to address the mounting pressures.

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By ·

The findings from our “2018 Warehouse and Distribution Center (DC) Operations Survey” cascade from strong economic growth and a tight labor market on the one hand, and e-commerce growth and order fulfillment complexities on the other. Strike these mega-trends against each other like flint against steel, and sparks will fly.

In fact, the labor crunch grew further as the No. 1 issue in the survey, while respondents report increased use of warehouse management systems (WMS) and other software, additional automation, and greater use of metrics and more advanced picking methods to cope with these challenges. A few of the highlights include:

  • Inability to attract and retain a qualified hourly workforce was the leading industry issue, cited by 55% of respondents, up 6% from last year;
  • the third year of asking about omni-channel fulfillment, 21% now say they have an omni-channel operation, up from 19% last year, while 40% say they support e-commerce fulfillment; and
  • use of some type of warehouse management system(WMS) reached 93%—the first time that response topped 90%.

The survey, conducted annually by Peerless Research Group on behalf of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group drew 138 responses this year from professionals in logistics and warehouse operations across multiple verticals. According to Norm Saenz, Jr., a managing director with St. Onge Company, and Don Derewecki, a senior consultant with St. Onge Company, a supply chain engineering consulting company and our partner for this annual survey, respondents are clearly seeking to apply technology to address the mounting pressures.

 


About the Author

Roberto Michel
Roberto Michel, an editor at large for Modern Materials Handling (MMH), has covered manufacturing and supply chain management trends since 1996, mainly as a former staff editor and former contributor at Manufacturing Business Technology. He has been a contributor to MMH since 2004. He has worked on numerous show dailies, including at ProMat, the North American Material Handling Logistics show, and National Manufacturing Week. He can be reached at [email protected]

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From the November 2018
New research from APICS, Supply Chain Management Review and Loyola University Chicago finds that operating a responsible supply chain is an increasing priority. But gaps remain between practice and the goal.
2018 Warehouse/DC Operations Survey: Labor Crunch Driving Automation
Shining a light on the “black box” of transportation
View More From this Issue
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