Warehouse sector

Sector in focus: Warehouse jobs

Due to the closure of non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, it soon became clear that warehouse staff were among our key workers, enabling those of us stuck at home to order a myriad of goods online, including food, medicines, clothes, toys, and DIY materials.

Without warehouse operatives, to pick, pack, ship and stack our purchases, a lot of UK households would have had to do without during 2020/21.

Trends we're seeing in the Warehouse sector

Many businesses are thriving in the Warehouse industry, with online goods still making up a third (30.2%) of overall retail spending in 20211, that’s 11% more than the pre-pandemic era. This increase means that Warehouse staff are still key to the picking and packing process for goods such as food deliveries and other essential items, especially for those who are self-isolating.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only increased the amount of stock flowing through warehouses in 2020/21, but it also brought about changes to the health and safety standards, with new cleaning routines, the introduction of one-way systems, compulsory mask wearing, and improved ventilation. There was also a need to create staggered shifts and break times to reduce the amount of contact between workers, and flexible working patterns to accommodate the number of staff needed to cover the ecommerce boom. Click here to find out more about the “new normal” in Warehouse jobs.

A report commissioned by the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA)2 found a 32% increase in the number of warehousing units over the past six years, with the demand for units of more than 1 million square feet increasing by a staggering 242%. This report also estimates that for every extra £1 billion spent online, a further 775,000 square feet of warehouse space is needed.

This level of expansion has led to industry experts warning that the UK could run out of warehouse space by the end of 2022. This in turn has resulted in a new wave of developments to match demand, with an estimated 12 million square foot of new warehouse units in the pipeline.

The critical shortage of storage space, in addition to labour shortages in the Warehouse industry and a backlog at UK container ports due to the lack of lorry drivers, could result in delays to orders being filled, less availability of goods and higher prices.

The labour shortage in this industry is due in-part to Brexit, resulting in many EU migrants unable to continue working in the UK. Unable to fill their vacancies, some distribution companies are offering up to a 30% increase in rates of pay and signing bonuses of £3,000.

The need to reduce the impact of climate change is influencing the trend for environmental reductions within the Warehouse sector. Changes are being introduced to lower carbon emissions across the warehousing and distribution industry, with companies investing in green technology, renewable power sources, hybrid and electric delivery vans, and LED lighting. The pressure to be carbon-neutral and the increase in consumer demand in this sector are driving many technological advances.

An increase of automation and the use of Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) is predicted to continue in 2021. The implementation of automated conveyers, sorting systems, transport management systems, automatic stacking using palletisers, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will become more prevalent in warehouses. This, linked together with the supply chain process will increase the automatization of order picking and inventory tracking.

How these trends are impacting Warehouse workers and jobs

These trends and developments are impacting workers and Warehouse jobs across the UK.

With warehouses expanding in size, and online retailers expecting the ecommerce boom to continue, there are tens of thousands of workers needed all over the country, particularly in areas where there is a high density of warehouse and distribution centres, such as Northampton and Milton Keynes.

The types of roles you can apply for with Blue Arrow include Warehouse Operatives and Supervisors to cover various shift patterns, including night shifts and seasonal workers. Warehouse Cleaners to manage the new cleanliness routines, along with Logistic Assistants and Parcel Sorters.

The ‘Golden Triangle’, a centralised area between Northamptonshire, Tamworth, and Nottingham with access to all the major motorways and ports, and with most of the UK’s population living within a four-hour drive, is viewed as the optimum location for distribution warehouses. However, this area is seeing enormous rent hikes, diminished land availability and an increasingly restricted labour pool. As a result, distribution companies are considering lower cost non-prime locations in Yorkshire and the North East. This de-centralisation of warehouse locations could be good news for job seekers in those areas.

The term “industry 4.0” refers to the fourth industrial revolution that is predicted to have a transformative impact on the future of the supply chain. The hope is that by creating “smart” warehouses that harness the latest in technological advancements, such as drones, robots, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), low-cost sensors, computer vision, and the ability to capture and process huge amounts of data, will automate the distribution process even further.

The past 25 years have seen significant improvements to the internet and transport infrastructure on a global scale. As a result, world trade is growing at twice the rate of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with developing countries doubling their share of exports to over 40%. Globalisation on this scale will significantly impact supply chain management the world over, hopefully resulting in many more warehousing and distribution jobs throughout the UK.

The global increase in ecommerce, has impacted the amount of distribution companies looking to recruit new warehouse workers. With increased rates of pay and signing bonuses of up to £3,000, 2022 could be the perfect time to seek a Warehouse job.

Where next?

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