It takes flexibility and agility to be successful in business. Warehouse managers are using a combination of strategies to stay competitive and better serve the customer in today’s volatile economy.

“New regulations, fluctuating prices, and higher consumer expectations are changing the landscape,” states Jerry List, Vice President of QC Software, a leading supplier of warehouse control software. List notes, “I’ve been in this business for twenty-five years and have seen how successful companies react to changing economic conditions. Regardless of the product or service offered, companies that are unable to adapt will soon become dinosaurs. New market conditions require new strategies.”

List identifies some key strategies for a leaner warehouse operation:

Regional Warehousing – There is a return to regional warehousing because this model will reduce energy costs, improve delivery times, enhance the response to regional demands, and reduce risk.

Multi-Channel Distribution Facility – Distributors are integrating distribution channels under one roof to consolidate resources. This is a more complex model since each channel has unique requirements for picking and outbound shipping. However, with extensive planning, companies are realizing the benefits.

Greater Use of Technology – Successful companies are using sophisticated software applications to improve tracking, security, and customer service. Managers are using collaborative tools that better coordinate supply and demand with vendors throughout the supply chain. Companies prefer software that is flexible so it will integrate with client and vendor systems and accommodate a changing environment. To keep costs down, companies are purchasing what they currently need and anticipate expanding their systems in the future.

More Automation – There is a greater demand for speed and efficiency. Managers are increasingly relying on automation on the warehouse floor for better results. Automated labeling, weight verification for quality control, and pallet building and wrapping mean faster turnaround times and fewer errors.

Green Technologies – Many factors are pushing companies toward green technologies including tighter regulations, consumer awareness, and higher energy costs. For a distribution facility, there is greater demand for more efficient machinery (low maintenance, lower voltage), and the need to reprogram the programmable logic controllers, or PLCs, to enhance energy efficiency.

Outsourcing – As labor costs increase, distribution companies will continue to rely on outsourcing. This is a cost-effective option when adding a new market or product, to handle the seasonal rush, or to allow a company to concentrate on their core competency