New research from the CILT and Statista highlights that the logistics industry is going to be hit by the skills shortage over the next five years, and it will be hard to recruit talented warehouse workers. However, the good news is, the technology is here to help managers meet the challenge by running their businesses more efficiently.

Until recently, the warehouse IT focus was on processing goods fast, with devices in the forefront, including RFID, barcode readers, scanners, voice IT and other wearable technology. Now ‘data is oil’ and the emphasis is on drilling out the data quickly, assisted by AI. Data analysis used to be spreadsheet driven, but today the big developments are in the cloud and on phone-based platforms.

So what can we expect? Eric Carter at Indigo Software reckons a warehouse can reduce its operating overheads during peak periods by up to 20% after introducing WMS technology. Staffing decisions can be made against pre-defined criteria, work schedules can be systemised and optimised according to the day’s sales orders. Crucially, there’s less reliance on employees’ knowledge of how the warehouse functions, so when a key worker quits it’s not the end of the world.

Warehouse IT is enabling complete warehouse modelling, from past performance to predictive analytics, from depot level to individual workers, but you don’t need to be an expert to benefit. Boutique consultancy Factum, for instance, has a long track record helping businesses with stock optimisation tools such as ERP, WMS, order management and web technologies. Their EazyStock cloud-based inventory optimisation solution helps improve service levels, save on inventory and regain time from manual, inefficient processes within a few months after connecting to your ERP system.

IT is also transforming workplace training. RTITB’s new offering eTruck UK is an online digital storytelling tool that increases training effectiveness while shaving time off courses. eTruck enables candidates to complete the theory part on a computer or tablet, in the workplace or at home, before attending practical training.

Warehouse safety is another area where IT innovation is reaping rewards. Fork trucks are getting smarter. Hyster’s latest models on show at IMHX included an automated truck with safety lasers, while UniCarriers’ truck fleet for outdoor clothing manufacturer Helly Hansen features Blue Spot technology, projecting LED light spots on the warehouse floor to warn employees of approaching vehicles.

Safety tech can also be retrofitted to existing fleets. ELOKON received another accolade for its ELOprotect product at this year’s BITA Design4Safety Awards, winning the Industrial Vehicles & Ancillary category. ELOprotect is a laser-based VNA vehicle-pedestrian safety system which monitors danger zones around forklifts, activated when a truck enters the narrow aisle, warning pedestrians and drivers and bringing the vehicle to a standstill.

And finally, this tech is all wonderful, but if the Wi fi crashes it’s back to paperwork. On our front cover Performance Networks have launched a national Wi fi health check campaign for the logistics sector to bolster productivity ahead of the peak season. It’s the nearest thing your warehouse will get to a digital flu jab this winter.