10 Predictions for Material Handling in 2023

warehouse-material-handlingThe only thing that’s remained constant in material handling during the past few years is change. That’s already continued in 2023 as economic predictions are already shifting from a definite recession to the economy remaining on a growth trajectory.  The advanced technology and social shifts in terms of workforce and consumer demand volatility make this a difficult management environment for facility leaders.

With that in mind, we consulted three of TFS’s material handling experts—Tom Ryder, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer; Ryan Boyd, Vice President, Racking and Automation; and Blake Tucker, Regional Vice President—for their predictions for 2023.

Read on to discover what you should be thinking about!

Economic contractions: Inflation and recession concerns will continue; manufacturing has contracted for three months straight according to ISM. In response, expect companies to be more focused on cost containment and control and more guarded in their approach to big projects.

The labor crunch: Labor shortages will persist in 2023 due to ongoing social and economic factors. In fact, 2023’s first job report showed that unemployment is the lowest it has been since the late 1960s. As a result, employers must think long-term about talent recruitment and retention strategies.

Supply chain relief: Good news! We expect the trend of reduced lead times to continue to improve as supply chain challenges ease worldwide. To date, this has positively impacted primarily retailer and ecommerce stocks. Even so, don’t waste the lessons volatility taught your team–keep working towards the day when your “supply chain is optimized” so the company is set up for success, whatever the world may throw your way.

Shorter material handling equipment lead times: While retailers and ecommerce supply chains are normalizing, equipment providers/manufacturers are still trying to catch up on lost production capacity due to a lack of parts. Equipment and parts lead times will come down this year, but they have not budged much as of yet. Many companies are still running behind from earlier lags, so it’s smart to consider some effective short- and long-term strategies to get back in the race.

Rising equipment costs: Equipment costs will continue to rise but at a slower rate than they did in 2022.

The automation revolution: The shift to system-driven processes will accelerate as many companies actively explore new systems and equipment to help ease labor issues. This allows less experienced workers to step into new roles without compromising productivity and safety.

Telematics: More telematic technologies will be embedded into forklifts to identify maintenance issues before they become a problem, alerting the appropriate team members. This increases uptime and decreases unplanned spending.

Workplace safety imperative: Safety has always been a priority in material handling, and the pandemic only reaffirmed this. Expect workplace health and safety to continue dominating talks as companies do all in their power to keep workers safe and avoid costly accidents and downtime. Read more on how telematics can help companies cut costs and increase safety.

Reimagining facilities and MHE (material handling equipment) use as new warehouse builds decline: Warehouse development start-ups will decline, causing rent to go up as space becomes less available. As a result, warehouses will continue to pursue ways of making the most of their space and resources. Reduce costs by exploring new racking set-ups to maximize facility footprints, examining and optimizing warehouse processes, and assessing fleet inventory to repurpose unused or underutilized lifts across facilities.

Sustainability: Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) topics rank high in every industry, largely driven by consumer and investor expectations for cleaner, greener, and more sustainable operations. Material handling is often overlooked in terms of sustainability, so consider partnering with an expert to ask the right questions for potential big gains here.

There’s no question that 2023 will throw some unexpected challenges our way—but, as always, preparation can make a real difference. Be sure to ask the right questions and create a material handling roadmap to help you get where you what to be. And don’t forget that you can start small and build on your progress!