It may be a cliché, but chances are that whatever you’ve just realised you need, there’s an app to help you get it.  Following the emergence of Uber, the mobile app-based service that connects passengers with drivers for hire, a growing number of ‘on-demand’ services are touting themselves as the ‘Uber for X’.  From home laundry delivery services to door to door food delivery that enables you to order from restaurants that don’t usually deliver, the on-demand economy is changing the way consumers buy services.

The modern day mindset

One of the driving factors that warmed consumers up to this ‘on-demand’ mentality has been the growth of e-commerce.  Next-day delivery options from retailers such as Amazon have contributed to the ‘I want it and I want it now’ consumer mindset.

This poses a challenge for everyone from e-fulfilment companies and online retailers through to manufacturers and wholesalers. How do you manage inventory when you don’t know exactly what your customers are going to buy next?

Rising storage costs

It’s a challenge that has led to growth in the logistics sector and a substantial increase in demand for warehouse space in the UK in recent years.  From vacancy rates of 20% in 2009, available space has declined year-on-year to 7.6%  towards the end of last year – and within the M25, this figure drops to just 4%[1].  As a result, the cost of storing inventory is on the up.

Solutions for an on-demand problem

When it comes to reducing the cost of storing package materials, a number of solutions make it possible to optimise space by also applying an this model.

For example, it’s no longer necessary to store large quantities of bulky protective packaging such as pre-formed bubble wrap or void-fill such as polystyrene chips which take up extra precious storage space.  Instead, growing numbers of companies are choosing to form these materials on demand, on site.  Easy-to-operate air cushion systems, inflatable void-fill systems and paper-based void fill systems can all free up space in the warehouse.  When it comes to paper-based systems, for instance, one small A4-sized pack of paper can perform the same protective function as three large bags of polystyrene chips – and yet, is significantly easier to store!

Another, increasingly popular option is ordering materials in smaller batches. Large orders are not always necessary to obtain economies of scale. In fact, well-connected packaging solutions providers who can obtain bulk discounts direct from the manufacturers, can pass these savings on to their customers by enabling them to order smaller quantities or even offer a stockholding service for bespoke items.

Every square metre of your warehouse taken up by storing unnecessary packaging materials costs money, but by rationalising your packaging solutions you can increase efficiency, optimise space and reduce costs.

Is it time you took another look at your packaging?

[1] Savills. 30 September 2015. New report shows 7.5% vacancy rate across entire UK warehouse market–vacancy-rate-across-entire-uk-warehouse-market.