Optimized for e-commerce
The pandemic’s e-commerce explosion changed the way we do logistics and continues to transform the warehouse as we know it.
During the past two years of COVID-19, Americans spent $1.7 trillion online—$609 billion more than in 2019 and 2018. To keep up with demand, antiquated spaces evolved into modern, smart facilities optimized for efficiency, speed and agility.
Digital solutions—like inventory analytics, autonomous robots, AI-powered sensors, cloud-based warehouse management systems (WMS) and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms—churn out enormous amounts of data, and they require networks with immense bandwidth and ever-increasing speeds, says Kevin Reynolds, VP of Smart Building at Prologis. “High-tech facilities require massive communication between disparate systems,” says Reynolds, whose team handles core technology, such as networking equipment, fiber and cabling, to make buildings more efficient and move-in ready. “Powerful backend infrastructure is essential to enable that flow of data.”
Dominate the delivery race
While ramping up throughput with smart warehouses helps companies answer the spike in online spending, they must also contend with new shipping demands. Today, more than 90% of consumers want their packages in three days or less, and 85% will look elsewhere if delivery times are too long. “The Goliaths of the industry, they set the new standard,” says Ian Antoniolli, operations manager at Prologis, of e-commerce giants, like Amazon and Walmart. “It’s not easy for small to medium businesses or 3PLs to achieve that.”
Digital freight forwarding platform Flexport is an example of a logistics innovator working to level the playing field. “Most companies aren’t able to invest in the technology they need to run the kind of global supply chain that large enterprises can,” said the company’s co-CEO Dave Clark at Prologis’ thought leadership forum, GROUNDBREAKERS. Flexport allows real-time information sharing between the sellers of goods and the delivery networks that distribute them to customers—creating significant time and cost efficiencies. “It’s like a supply chain for everybody else.”
COVID shined a spotlight on the fact that we just can’t continue to throw people at the problem. We need to be able to automate a lot of the things that humans don’t like to do.
President and Chief Executive Officer, Kyslinger Consulting International
Automate your next-gen warehouse
Robotics also help businesses stay competitive by driving safer, faster, more efficient operations. Ron Kyslinger, who spent decades transforming e-commerce at companies small and large, says automation that supports business continuity reigns supreme.
“COVID shined a spotlight on the fact that we just can’t continue to throw people at the problem,” says Kyslinger, who now leads his own consulting firm. “We need to be able to automate a lot of the things that humans don’t like to do.”
Today’s options run the gamut—from shuttle cars to autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that perform tasks without supervision. All of it leads back to the need for advanced and secure physical and digital infrastructure. “Automation requires fast data because quick decisions have to be made, and you need the network and bandwidth to support that high-tech work environment,” says Reynolds.
The slew of challenges facing logistics leaders today likely sounds familiar: space is scarce, inventory is unpredictable, the labor market remains tight, and critical warehouse equipment is on backorder.
While corporate sustainability pledges are ubiquitous these days, tackling the environmental impact of supply chains—part of what’s known as Scope 3 emissions—is a complex yet critical component for organizations to achieve net-zero emissions.
Today’s consumers demand more sustainability in more aspects of their lives, including the logistics behind deliveries of goods.