Worldwide, in the warehousing business, when future operations are discussed, the conversation is likely to be about more automation, greater variety, better systems, more integration, more efficiency and greater flexibility. The dreams, discussions and plans focus on issues such as robotics, the ‘Internet of Things’, tomorrow’s deliveries by drones, 3D printing, multi-channel fulfilment, ecommerce growth, rapid fulfilment and the need to individualise operations.
In South Africa the focus is somewhat different. As the exchange rate rapidly approaches R20 to the US dollar, coupled to declining commodity prices, labour instability, looming junk status and some concerning government decisions, local discussions are likely to focus more on “how do we survive in this hostile environment”.
The next few years in South Africa are going to be really challenging and it will be interesting to see how warehouse operators cope with these challenges. What happens when the cost of a reach truck moves over R1-million or grows to R2-million plus for a turret truck! The common forklift is going to cost close on R600 000. Couple that to increasing interest rates – and life becomes really interesting.