Warehouses and warehousing is the backbone of the UK’s commercial infrastructure – and an often-forgotten piece of the puzzle in an ever-expanding network of domestic and international logistics from a consumer perspective. Indeed, many will know warehouses as little more than eyesores lining the M1 – but these eyesores are in short supply, and threatening the fabric of many industries in the process.
The commercial property market has been in disarray for the past year, with capital values falling by a fifth; this is simultaneous to, and in spite of, a fresh race for space in the e-commerce industry, with demand higher than ever for logistics and fulfilment centres – that is, warehouses. But what is the scope of the problem, and how do businesses need to think about their new needs in terms of warehousing?
E-commerce Expansion and Last-Mile Delivery
The exponential growth of the e-commerce market has been well-documented in recent years. The tech boom has enabled logistics networks to grow more complex and enabled the simplification of online shopping in numerous distinct ways. Today, a large majority of both B2B and B2C sales are conducted via online portals and digital businesses, in turn demanding an exponential rate of increase with regard to wholesale goods storage.
A particularly important part of this growth in demand is the growth in demand for last-mile delivery. Consumers have come to expect next-day delivery for items as an optional standard, requiring businesses with logistics arms to consider warehouses proximal to different regional hubs. With appetite for warehouses growing faster than they can be constructed, there is a bottleneck.
Supply Chain Resilience and Inventory Management
But not all businesses can equitably arrange for last-mile delivery internally – indeed, only a small handful of corporations in e-commerce can fulfil orders in this way. This necessitates reliance on a supply chain, constituting numerous businesses, to fulfil orders. Such a network introduces points of failure, which are tested by disruptive events like Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.
Mitigating the impacts of these events can be achieved multiply but has seen businesses attempting to expand their warehousing space, staff and use of industrial equipment like forklifts. This incurs fresh risk though, in terms of workplace injury at the hands of logistics equipment.
Jacob Underwood, a Senior Litigator from National Accident Law highlights this danger and what you can do in the event of an accident:
“Sadly, forklift truck accidents often involve serious injury that can be life-changing for the victim. Severe forklift accident claims can be complex and those crossing a certain threshold will automatically be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive. If there is an HSE investigation, this doesn’t mean you have to wait until it’s over to make a forklift accident compensation claim. We can start helping you as soon as you’re feeling up to it.”
Technological Advancements and Automation
Further solutions, then, can be found in the form of technological innovation – particularly automation. Automated warehouses eliminate the human element from the handling and movement of goods, relegating workers to administrative and supervisory capacities. This also reduces instances of human error and enables staff to think more carefully about improving storage and fulfilment efficiency.
This is compounded by the development of AI, wherein machine learning algorithms can optimise storage and fulfilment according to pre-set criteria. These tech developments could well alleviate the pressure on the commercial property market while improving service in a still-young industry.