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2021 Trends in Material Handling


2020 had a profound impact on the material handling industry. Millions of new customers have found themselves forced to shift their purchasing habits online for goods like groceries, household supplies, DIY project materials, home fitness equipment and everything in between. In response to this increased demand, businesses have shown impressive flexibility and resolve in their ability to pivot and adjust their models to match this new wave of e-commerce popularity. Flexible warehouses and modular systems are quickly taking over as the new norm for e-commerce systems in lieu of more traditional, rigid systems.

We anticipate that things will continue to change dramatically for the material handling industry throughout 2021. Here are the four main trends to follow for the material handling industry in 2021.


1. Worker Safety Rising to the Forefront

Worker safety is nothing new, but the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way companies look at how they keep their workers safe. A huge issue in the material handling world is worker turnover. One way to ensure workers stick around after being hired is by demonstrating a commitment to keeping them safe in light of everything that’s happening around the world.


2. Automation Continuing to Gain Momentum

We expect automation tech to continue to rise — as it did in 2020 — in order to help companies adjust for the increased demand for flexibility. Now the question is whether or not automation equipment providers are able to design and distribute effective solutions that can account for the level of flexibility that end users need.


3. SKU Counts Reaching Unprecedented Highs

The new behaviors shown by consumers are forcing the hand of many material handling companies and pushing them to overhaul their existing warehouse strategies. The current status quo for warehouses — the traditional, rigid material handling system — is struggling to keep up with the rapid growth of SKU counts to match consumers’ diverse needs. New and improved “flexible warehouses” equipped with expandable and modular systems capable of being adjusted to match changes in demand will become a new focus for material handling companies in 2021.


4. Cybersecurity Growing in Importance

IBM recently published a piece citing the average cost of a data breach at a little less than $4 million. A lot of companies tend to think they’re “too small” to be the target of a cybersecurity attack, but that is simply not the case. Cyber attackers don’t care about company size, they will wreak havoc on anyone they can get their hands on. Material handling companies will need to focus on continuing to bolster their cyber defenses in 2021 — or face the financial consequences.


Happy New Year from the CCS Blog to you!

Everyone at CCS is excited to carry our 2020 momentum into the new year. We’re looking forward to some big changes we have lined up and ready to see where 2021 takes us. Keep following the CCS Blog for news, updates and insights into our material handling and conveyor solutions as well as insight into the industry on the whole. Best of luck in 2021!

If you’re planning a warehouse automation project for 2021, we may be able to help. If you're interested in finding out if CCS is the right automation solution provider for your operation, please contact Joel Thomas by email at joelthomas@cartercontrols.com or by phone at 240-815-1835.

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