03 February 2022 2022 heralds a consolidation of ongoing change processes. There are no major technological breakthroughs expected, but leading software providers see an increase in the trend towards fully automated systems. Due to the problem of labour shortage which has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, standard software seems set to become a firmly established part of the WMS landscape. So no big surprises in store. However, 2022 could still be the year that impacts the future of the sector like no year before. CIM logistics expert predicts a consolidation of existing trends - and hints at a hidden revolution. 2022 heralds a consolidation of ongoing change processes. There are no major technological breakthroughs expected, but leading software providers see an increase in the trend towards fully automated systems. Due to the problem of labour shortage which has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, standard software seems set to become a firmly established part of the WMS landscape. So no big surprises in store. However, 2022 could still be the year that impacts the future of the sector like no year before.Artificial neural networks, augmented reality, blockchain and IoT – buzzwords like these are enough to make the heart of any technology fan skip a beat. The breakthrough of these and other future-oriented technologies has been on the cards for some years now. But the predicted revolution has not yet materialised, at least not in the logistics software market. Is this set to change in 2022?Looking back at the developments of recent years, it’s clear that 2022 will see a consolidation of previous trends. We spent 2021 firmly in the grip of the coronavirus. And although decision-makers are cautiously optimistic about the future, infection control and prevention are still likely to be central topics in 2022. Existing change processes have been hugely accelerated by the consequences of the pandemic. Lockdowns and shop closures have shaken up global supply chains and led to an explosion in online retail. As a result, many businesses are returning to regional production and significantly expanding their warehousing capacities. Restrictions on contact and travel have called for fast solutions from large segments of the industry in terms of creating safe working environments, with hot-desking and working from home the new normal for many companies. At the same time, the prospect of an end to the pandemic is boosting hopes of economic growth. The shortage of skilled labour, somewhat contained in the logistics sector at the start of the pandemic, is coming rearing its head again with a vengeance due to an increase in growth. A boom in online retail, collapsing supply chains, the growing importance of the sector and a shortage of workers are the key challenges that need to be solved by service-oriented software companies, in other words.The logistics software industry is very much aware of these problems. Industry expert Hannelore Mayr from logistics software provider CIM sees these developments as a clear call for action. “The shortage of labour is a real predicament for many companies,” she says referring to the growing economic importance of the logistics industry. “There are more orders coming in, but fewer people to process them. The upshot is that customers are looking for software that’s easier to operate,” explains Hannelore. One of the trends she has observed recently is an increased focus on software standardisation. She’s convinced that logistics providers who don’t offer standard software will have a hard time in the future.According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML), the share of individualised software solutions on the market in 2020 was well over 20 percent. The explanation for this lies in the unique needs of logistics companies in terms of their warehouse management. Previously, it always seemed easier to adapt the processes to the company rather than the other way around. “We see a significant shift in this respect, from our customers’ perspective too. They’re more willing to implement our optimised processes given the right training,” continues Hannelore. There’s ultimately an even bigger benefit for WMS users, since standard software guarantees greater IT security as well as easier implementation and intuitive use.Another trend emerging in the WMS market is an increase in the number of automated solutions. “We could already see it coming last year,” says Hannelore Mayr, who considers the increase in full warehouse automation as an antidote to the shortage of skilled labour. However, the focus is shifting towards the problem of collapsing supply chains – a hot topic given the surge of localised coronavirus outbreaks. “How can a warehouse operate autonomously for 48 hours despite potential incidents?”To answer these questions and more, CIM is currently involved in an innovation project based in Switzerland which addresses the challenges of advanced automation in the warehouse. A breakthrough in this field would not only prevent faltering supply chains caused by external interference such as a pandemic. It would also mean valuable progress with regard to workplace attractiveness and employee friendliness.So the WMS industry is unlikely to see any major upheavals in 2022. Corona has had too much of an impact on the everyday business of the markets. We’re likely to be dealing with the global economic and social consequences of the pandemic for years to come. Nevertheless, hope remains that 2022 will turn out to be a year of hidden revolution. Current trends in research are certainly making us sit up and take notice: Behind the closed doors of development teams, there are signs of a fundamental change which is likely to radically transform the logistics software industry.The coming year will see companies continue intensive research into potential applications for artificial neural networks in the warehouse. Looking at of the current projects taking place at major research institutes, scientists have evidently long moved past basic theoretical research. Logistics faculties at universities such as TU Munich are already cooperating with leading WMS software providers in an attempt to align research with business requirements. It will be interesting to see what the business and science publications of 2022 have to report. The principles that apply to every product will continue to apply over the coming year, however. Cost-effectiveness, feasibility and practicality ultimately dictate the direction of the market. But perhaps the foundations will at least be laid for the superior systems expected to bring the long-awaited breakthrough heralded by the big tech buzzwords. Until then, we’ll be watching from a distance to see what 2022 has in store. Hannelore Mayr:Hannelore Mayr is member of the board at CIM GmbH Logistik-Systeme. She plays a leading role in developing the in-house warehouse management software PROLAG®World and collaborates with multiple research institutes on the latest technical innovations in the sector. CIM is a leading supplier of warehouse management software with its PROLAG®World suite.