Autumn tends to be the busiest time for many. The run-up to Christmas is when everyone wants to finish outstanding jobs and finalise new projects. Warehousing and logistics play the biggest role in making, packing and delivering Christmas shopping to your door.

Prelude to the Storm

With 12 weeks to go until the Great British heads of family wake up to the realisation that Saturday 22nd of December is likely to be the last day there is any icing sugar left in the shops. How are we in the world of materials handling preparing for it?

In our sector, which is busy at the best of times, a huge amount of work has already gone into the annual summer shutdowns making sure our plant and machinery is in tip-top condition in the run in to Christmas.

warehouse machinery

© Wacker Neuson Warehouse

Work Progress

In the last few years we have seen a few changes in the way work progresses. You can now do more from the fork truck seat today than at anytime in the history of the invention. Equipment will follow you round the warehouse as you work and you can talk  to your stock in real time to pick, stack, pack, rack and track. If it’s not right to the unit, you can correct it on a computer without printing out or wasting time going to an office.

Television screens have been replaced with flatscreen technology and information from the customer to the warehouse is instant with same day deliveries on offer. This is not just confined to FMCG. Spares for equipment can be dropped off at the engineer’s van at his overnight stop. The world’s largest operators have now got products where they used to have dust, and intelligent stock rotation.

Logistics Getting Sorted

Some of the biggest changes have been seen in the sorting systems. This applies as much to T5 luggage distribution as it does to Amazon logistics. The biggest change of all has transpired from the universal digitisation of data. Paper systems and pulp industries have moved on considerably.

Amazon Fulfilment Centre

Amazon Fulfilment Centre © Álvaro Ibáñez


Funnily enough there is still huge demand for hand packed product. The need for workstations and workbenches is not diminishing. We are just seeing our users demand more facilities for mounting technology to help them do their work. Assembly too has speeded up. In the volume users such as automotive demand increases as technology displaces QA systems to specialist plants that prepare wiring harnesses, windscreens, car seats, and trims.

No Surprise

Take a closer look at your packaging. A lot of work goes in to it with workstations strategically placed in the printing lines that protect your favourite drink or even Santa’s favourite tipple. The work needs to be set and checked and surprising amount of skill goes in to it. Why? Because in the second you blink a lorry full of consignment has just been made and wrapped up in six packs. Once the outers are in the carton erectors it’s game over and volume recalls are nightmares for any production director.

So the humble workbench with all its bins, dispensers, lighting, seating (for the lucky ones), drawers, IT mounts, specific worktops, cupboards and shelves will somewhere have had a hand in your Christmas shopping expedition this year.

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Thousands of plastic bins which never see the light of day, fork truck movements and shifts on mezzanine floors specifically constructed to hold the item you are about to order will all have played a hand in making sure you can enjoy that glass of wine in a remote location at the top of the tallest building in what a few years ago was a desert. All of this without you even noticing it. Materials handling is one thing, getting it organised is something entirely different. The two are, however, inseparable.

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Written by the Material Handling Hub Correspondent Paul Casebourne.

Featured Image © CTsabre14