By now many Modern readers are probably getting a little tired of hearing about the cloud of uncertainly that continues to hover over the U.S. and global economies. As we passed the threshold into the new year, how many times have you already heard that “uncertainty is certain in 2020?”
Well, I’m going to do my best to put some terra firma under your feet and share a few certainties that you can take to the bank.
First, the show floor at Modex 2020 (March 9-12) at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center will be a hive of activity next month. According to show producer MHI, the event will host 950 exhibitors spread over 375,000 net square feet of floor space, will hold 130 educational seminars and will welcome more than 35,000 attendees—that’s a third bigger than Modex 2018, if you’re keeping score.
Now, with attendees numbers in that range, there’s a good chance you already have your travel arrangements and a game plan for who and what you’d like to see while making your way around the show. However, if duty keeps you home, starting on page 18 the Modern editors have collected more than 100 of the latest new products that will be highlighted on this year’s floor—casters, racks, shelving, lift trucks, software, the latest in automation solutions and everything in between.
And don’t forget, if you’re walking the show or back at your facility, our team of editors will be covering every press conference and event in our print and online versions of the Modex Show Daily. So, no matter where you are, I’m certain that Modern has you covered.
My second is that, in the din of Modex activity, real investment is going to be made. As we shared in Modern’s “Warehouse and Distribution Center Operations Survey,” when asked if their operation was planning to expand in the next 12 months, 79% of respondents said, “Yes.” In the meantime, our survey found that capital expenditure (capex) plans for the coming year remain healthy. The average projected capex for 2020 is $1.27 million, nearly identical to the 2018 number, a record year for investment, while 9% plan to spend $10 million or more in the coming year.
My third certainty is that returns management will take a more prominent place in supply chain discussions this year. For too long, the term “return” has had a negative connotation, especially in a supply chain conversation. But in today’s era of the fickle e-commerce customer, the return loop represents an untapped opportunity for imaginative operations—you just have to pay some attention to it.
Contributing editor Gary Forger has done an excellent job of putting the skyrocketing rate of returns into the spotlight in hopes of raising awareness to what has traditionally been the single, most overlooked element of e-commerce fulfillment.
“The numbers and missed opportunities are staggering at this point,” says Forger. “And it’s true that it’s the one DC process that doesn’t get the respect it should. Typically, no one owns returns, and no one wants to process them. Few even care that real profit and margin are tied up in those returns sitting in the back corner. For now, it’s the wild west of materials handling.