Over the last year, the U.S. supply chain has faced many challenges, as demand continues to exceed supply in nearly every industry. “Black swan” events, trade policy changes, labor and raw material shortages, natural disasters, new environmental regulations and commodities cost increases have profoundly affected every link in the chain. Fortunately, mobile warehousing and storage (MW&S) can provide a cost-effective, real-time warehousing solution for many of these complex issues.
Creating elasticity in the supply chain by providing storage options when and where they’re needed, MW&S allows customers to flex their space up or down without a term commitment. Additionally, the ability to store and shuttle product is helpful throughout every aspect of a circular supply chain, including in the reverse logistics stage.
Companies with a national footprint have goods staged throughout the country, and often need additional warehouse space quickly in line with shifting supply and demand. Because MW&S is more readily available than traditional warehouse space, trailers can be delivered within 24 to 48 hours, providing a convenient last-minute option.
Flexible month-to-month lease terms that are ideal for companies needing temporary space also make MW&S affordable. With the cost of warehouse space forecasted to rise 10% this year due to high demand, one vehicle manufacturer has chosen to temporarily store its product in MW&S trailers because of the high cost to send products overseas, due to limited capacity on ships.
To help paint a picture of MW&S’s various uses, think back to March of last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Much of the U.S. had shut down, and millions of people were spending increasing amounts of time at home, resulting in a massive “spring cleaning.” While many thrift stores closed and were unable to accept donations, people stockpiled their stuff, anxious to get rid of it as soon as possible. When the stores finally reopened, they were hit with floods of donations, and had nowhere to put the items while their staffs sorted through it all.
Enter MW&S. Although the massive influx of donations due to COVID-19 was a rare event, thrift stores experience a springtime rush each year. MW&S gives them access to extra storage space when and where it’s needed.
Another sector impacted by COVID-19 that has benefited from MW&S is home improvement. While quarantined, many people engaged in home repair and remodeling, leading to an increase in DIYers. Consumers were buying and sending back more supplies and equipment than ever before, and with limited reverse logistics plans in place, home improvement stores were stuck with loads of returned inventory and nowhere to put it. Some companies were able to find relief with MW&S, which provided a place to store returned goods safely and securely until they could be properly sorted and moved along to the next step in the reverse logistics process.
Challenges disrupting the supply chain will never stop. They will shift and transform as the world continues to change, and consumer buying habits evolve. But regardless of the obstacle, MW&S can provide a cost-effective, real-time storage solution.
Sarah Johnson is executive vice president of mobile warehousing and storage at Milestone Equipment Holdings.
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