2022 Supply Chain Content Rewind

From retail challenges to changes in warehousing design, here’s a look back at our most viewed content for 2022.

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This time of year is often filled with reflection. In the supply chain, so many things have evolved over 2022 that it might be overwhelming to compile it all into one useful sum of knowledge. Luckily, analytics and tracking data exists, and our numbers show that retail challenges, commodity pricing risks in aluminum and warehouse ventilation design were the top 3 content topics for the year, as the most viewed articles on our site.

Supply Chain Challenges in Retail

In April, an article by Callum Campbell, CEO of Linnworks, published describing 3 supply chain challenges that would impact retail in 2022. As we know, supply chain pitfalls stemming from COVID-19 and the subsequent shortages and delays have followed the industry for the past few years is a continuing factor in the climate today. Campbell describes the main culprits for retail as trucker shortage, a lack of warehouse space and growing consumer demand that ultimately set the stage for the duration of the year.

He explains that having fewer drivers on the road means there are fewer goods moving and without steady flows to and from warehouses, the entire chain is affected. “Customers are having to wait longer between the moment they place an order and when it gets delivered to their doorstep. Retailers can’t directly solve the trucker shortage, but they can prepare their businesses to meet their consumers’ needs and prevent massive out-of-stock situations or severe delays”, says Campbell.

Similarly, the lack of warehouse space led to an overflow, with many considering warehouse expansion but, as 2022 saw a rise in real estate costs, Campbell recommended flexibility as a key component to overcoming this hurdle. “Research from Linnworks revealed that 4 in 5 retailers at one point repurposed physical store space into additional fulfillment space to help with ecommerce orders, and only a third of those reverted it back into stores. Being flexible with the resources already available is one way to optimize fulfillment operations and, in turn, customer experience”, Campbell explained.

Finally, this influential article gave way to understanding consumer demand that has been compounded by increased online shopping activity since the onset of the pandemic and, according to Campbell, “by investing in a platform that can provide a centralized view into all operations, retailers can more efficiently forecast demand for certain products or certain channels to ensure the corresponding warehouses are properly stocked.”

Price Risks of Aluminum

Early 2022 saw a spike in aluminum costs as growing demand and a decline in production sent inventory into a spiral. An article by Vipul Kumar, senior manager of procurement research for Aranca, explained one facet of the change attributed to an increase in cost of energy and raw material prices— where the proportion of electricity costs in the total cost of aluminum production increased from 33% to 38% and an increase in alumina costs for H2 by 30-40%, as of February 1, 2022.

Coupled with decline in production in China and other inventories, Kumar says that “to meet domestic demand, China imported about 1.27 million tons of aluminum in 2021. Lower production in China, coupled with the increase in its aluminum imports, created an inventory shortage globally. The cumulative inventory of stocks on the London Metal Exchange (LME) fell to 893,775 tons, the lowest level since 2007.” At the close of 2022, Market Insider reports a decrease in aluminum cost and an overall fall from the data reported in this article from the beginning of the year— a welcome sight for consumers and a trend that hopefully continues into the new year.

Warehouse Ventilation Design

Our 3rd most viewed article for 2022, by Rick Kreczmer, president at RoboVent, gives 8 considerations in warehouse ventilation design to improve product and employee health. Ventilation and air filtration are important in our everyday household, and still just as important for warehousing. The consideration of such can improve efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability that Kreczmer describes in these main points:

  1. Occupancy rates and activities- the higher the occupancy rate, the longer the time people spend in the area, and the more strenuous the work demands, the more critical ventilation will be.
  2. Material storage requirements- warehouse ventilation is an important component of maintaining appropriate indoor temperatures and humidity levels.
  3. Indoor air quality- in a warehouse environment, the largest contributor to indoor pollution is usually exhaust from material handling equipment.
  4. Room refresh rate/CFM requirements- the room refresh rate (or air change rate) refers to the rate at which fresh outdoor air is introduced to the space. It is usually expressed as the air changes per hour (ACH) in a room. Air change rates for warehouses are typically set between 6 – 30 changes per hour. ASHRAE sets minimum ventilation rates for commercial and institutional spaces (expressed in cubic feet per minute (CFM) of airflow per square foot of area) under the ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1 guidelines, based on the space type, occupancy and room size.
  5. Layout and airflow patterns- once you figure out your optimal air change rate and CFM for your space, you then need to consider how you want air to flow through the space.
  6. Exhaust/Makeup air balance- it is important to properly balance exhaust and makeup air rates for the warehouse.
  7. Filtration Needs- warehouses rarely produce enough emissions to require filtration on exhaust fans. However, if excessive fumes and particulate are building up in the breathing zone due to the use of material handling equipment, it may be desirable to use portable air purifiers in areas where humans are working.
  8. Energy consumption- the layout and design of your warehouse ventilation system will have a big impact on the overall efficiency and energy consumption.

Though the year is ending, it’s easy to see why these topics remained high on the list for so many viewers. Going into 2023, keeping a finger on the pulse of supply chain disruptions, costs fluctuations and improvements in space safety and functionality carry on creating better awareness and a better supply chain as a whole.