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What’s New In Fulfillment Services? (Part 2 of 2)

This is part two in a two-part series. Read part one here.

In part one of this two-part series on the new happenings in fulfillment services, we talked about growth and innovation in eCommerce—and about how all of that affects fulfillment services. In part two, we’re going to talk about other warehouse and fulfillment service happenings.

Sustainable / Green Supply Chains

Streamlining your supply chains always means looking for every single way you can find to make them cost less to operate, no matter what part you play in fulfillment.

Apple has been working hard on eliminating waste in their supply chain over the last several years and has managed to divert an increasing amount of manufacturing waste from landfills to waste-to-energy plants and has increased warehouse and factory energy efficiency by simply replacing old HVAC and lighting systems.

Apple isn’t the only one on the green supply chain bandwagon, though. In March, UPS announced that they would be investing another $100 million in natural gas-powered trucks and the infrastructure to support them, creating 12 new fueling stations and adding 380 trucks to the UPS fleet. About six percent of UPS’s current fleet is made up of natural gas fueled vehicles.

Agile is the New Lean

Last year, having a Lean supply chain was the big thing. It was all about using technology and software to eliminate waste in every possible place in order to increase fulfillment efficiency. Less waste equals less cost over the long term, or so we all believed.

This year, lean has been replaced with agile — that is, a lean system that’s not so starved that it can’t also be responsive. Instead of reducing your supply chain or warehousing and distribution process to a point where it’s so skinny there’s no room for the unexpected, leave a little meat on the bone for the unexpected. Agile supply chains are still pretty lean, but they’re the athletes of the logistics world. They can respond and turn on a dime.

Wearables in the Warehouse

There’s some speculation that wearables may help pinpoint problems on the packing floor, especially in a system that already feels as streamlined as it can be.

Wearables that track vitals, for example, can help detect physical exhaustion before workers are aware of it, giving managers a chance to send these valuable team members to a break before they’ve reached a point of no return. Not only will these types of technologies save individual workers, they’ll increase productivity by keeping fresh staff on the floor at all times. Wearables could help streamline use of climate control systems, as well, by monitoring worker body temperatures.

We’ve discussed lots of new trends in fulfillment services, from green supply chains to wearables in the warehouse. This year promises to be much like the last several, with surprises around every corner. Logistics is a sector that’s undergoing a lot of changes to the better, it pays to stay in the loop.

June 16, 2016
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