As consumers continue migrating from in-person to online shopping, one area of the market that could feel a positive residual impact is warehouse construction.

According to Dodge Data & Analytics, which tracks construction activity levels, commercial construction warehouse starts is one of only a handful of segments within construction anticipated to see a boost in 2021. This, according to Dodge, is due to large ecommerce companies like Amazon continuing to need more space for distribution as the movement from in-store to online purchases grows.

The numbers from Dodge project that overall construction will see a 14% drop in starts for 2020 compared with the previous year. Furthermore, only 4% of that loss is expected to be regained in the year ahead. 

As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. In this case, that rising tide of warehouse construction should lift demand for manufacturers of such things as: 

  • Forklifts: In North America, less than 2% of forklifts sold are automated. Yet, the need for this technology continues to escalate due to the way in which it reduces the need for human contact (a plus amid the COVID-19 pandemic) and alleviates the ergonomic impact of repetitive, physically demanding tasks in today’s highly-complex manufacturing operations.
  • Conveyors: The market for conveyors isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. The growing complexity of warehouse and distribution centers necessitates customized systems that can be produced and delivered quickly and cost efficiently.
  • Racking: Used in both distribution centers and delivery vans, racking systems need to be produced in large volume, with the metal required being in high demand.

“These days, no two warehouse and distribution centers are alike, each customized to improve the efficiency and safety of employees. Automation is playing a big role, such as automatic guided vehicles (AGV), automated delivery vehicles (ADV), sorting conveyor systems, and automated forklifts,” says Rudi Tanck, Market Manager, Ryerson. “This means the need to meet higher volumes under tighter deadlines is more important than ever. The ability to manage a program centered on cost control and reliability will be key to success.”

It Starts with the Metal  

All of these systems require metal— tubing, bar-size structurals, bar, sheet, plate. Given the growing tightness in supply of key metals, it is imperative to work with a partner that can provide a consistent flow of metal and match the need for a high degree of variability in terms of size and configuration. 

The cost to carry material can be hard to absorb in some instances. This is where it is wise to explore just-in-time delivery programs that, when coupled with our broad and resilient distribution network, ensure you can fulfill requests as needed.

“The steel market remains extremely tight, but that doesn’t mean product isn’t available,” says Tanck. “We can help ensure a consistent flow of raw material and match your need for a high degree of variability in terms of size and configuration.” 

The Need to Customize 

Couple that need for metal with the urgency of getting the parts shaped to meet the unique requirements of each warehouse and distribution center. It requires more than just ensuring your partner has the right type of equipment—it needs to be available when you need it. 

By forming a deeper relationship with you and your business, suppliers can become more aware of your material needs and lead times. This means they can meet your requirements, right down to the piece of equipment being used and even the location of the facility. 

For instance, tube laser machines provide complete customization and cut-to-length capabilities in just one step, with finished or semi-finished parts produced from raw material. A partner with a broad network can simplify the process by eliminating the need to coordinate multiple orders and vendors—handling everything from material procurement to part delivery.

“We take great pride in being able to verify our capacity,” adds Tanck. “Forming a deeper relationship with you and your business, we become highly aware of your material needs and lead times. This helps us provide assurances that we can meet your requirements, right down to the piece of equipment being used and even the location of the facility.”

Customized Metal Solutions

Like the demands of the consumer, those of the companies building next-generation warehouse and distribution systems are relentless.

From first order through final-mile delivery, Ryerson is a dedicated partner to help ensure supply continuity and advanced processing. Check out how Ryerson can help warehouse and distribution systems manufacturers. 


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