In reaction to current supply chain, labor and inflation challenges, some respondents in one survey downgraded sustainability objectives and prioritized efficiency/automation

In a December 2022 survey of around 300 C-level business leaders in warehouse management and fulfilment in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region, respondents cited three areas of concern: rising energy costs (32%), increasing labor costs (27%), and supply chain and shipping constraints (26%).

European respondents (44%) cited energy costs as a top challenge, compared with North American and Asia Pacific respondents (24%). Conversely, rising labor costs were more of a concern in APAC (34%) and North America (27%), compared to Europe (22%).

The respondents’ most important focus areas for 2023 were: improving customer satisfaction levels (34%), investing in automation technology (31%), sustainable solutions (31%), greater workforce efficiency (31%), and delivering goods-to-person faster (30%).

Other findings

Some 88% of respondents indicated that they will implement an automated storage and retrieval system by 2024, with 32% already having some sort of automation technology in place, and 56% planning to do so in the next 12 months. Also:

    • Energy efficiency (55%), reduction of waste (46%), employee well-being (43%), reducing storage footprints (39%), and recycling (36%) were the most important initiatives.
    • Sustainability decreased in priority (13%) compared to reliability (24%), simplicity (22%), and space utilization (20%) as more important attributes.
    • 43% of respondents indicated space saving/utilization as “mission critical” to their business; 49% cited it as a “very important” business priority.

According to Clement Yew, Director, Business Development (South-east Asia), AutoStore, which commissioned the survey: “The past three years have seen a huge explosion and contraction in supply chain demand — the likes of which we have not seen before. For this reason, it is unsurprising to see professionals concerned about space utilization. With rising inflation and recession hitting headlines, the pendulum has swung again, with many caught in flux between being prepared and being over leveraged on inventory. Companies best placed to ride the potentially disruptive storms ahead are the ones with the most accurate data, best scenario planning, most optimized spaces, and the greatest flexibility to move quickly and efficiently.”