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Interview with an Expert

Chaston Kome, Operations Manager for OEC Group’s Kansas City office, discusses new developments in the US warehousing sector and gives advice to shippers and retailers looking to add value through their storage solutions.

Are all warehouses in the U.S. the same?

They are not all the same, and that is absolutely essential to understand when building the most effective supply chain strategy. Warehousing can be highly specialized, and types include Smart warehouses that rely heavily on robotics and artificial intelligence; bonded or free trade zone warehouses that assist with customs clearances; hazardous certified warehouses that store risky material; and climate-controlled warehouses designed to store perishables like food and medicine. Certain warehouses are oriented to help customers with speed of delivery, and even others are completely managed by third-party logistics providers to take pressure off of other parties. In short, not all warehouses are the same and many serve specific functions.

Other than straight storage, what other kinds of services do warehouses offer?

Overall, there are too many specialized services to list, but many customer requests include long-term storage options, short-term storage options, pick-and-pack services, e-commerce solutions, transloading and cross dock services, and palletizing operations. However, accessing these services is not so cut and dry, as it depends on the relationships and agreements you have with your warehousing network. The best way to reap the full benefits of an optimal warehousing plan is to partner with a provider that has that knowledge and network. Your provider can help you handpick services, and they can offer flexibility in terms of services and storage locations as your supply chain needs evolve. Building these relationships on your own and understanding which warehouses to target based on specific needs is very difficult and can take years to do from scratch.

How has the push for sustainability impacted the warehousing sector?

Even before the recent sustainability push in ocean shipping, many warehouses and storage facilities were already striving for carbon neutrality. Most new warehouses being built across the country are designed to have minimal environmental impact. Additionally, as more shippers look to build sustainable supply chains, we’re developing more end-to-end strategies that support climate conscious goals. That includes storage solutions, which can minimize the length and frequency (and in turn the emissions) of both ocean transportation and ground transportation across all orders.

Do you have any advice for shippers looking to manage such a wide variety of warehousing options?

Location, location, location! Having a storage location that fits into your unique supply chain and optimally connects your gateway port to your final destination is essential. Unfortunately, the perfect location can change based on evolving market conditions. Access to an exhaustive warehousing network is the strategy that can neutralize that. Whether by somehow creating a network of partnerships, or by partnering with a provider that has one in place, shippers should be looking for flexibility and complete geographical coverage in their essential markets.

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