Region/Countries: Canada, North America Industry: Energy, Power and Control, Manufacturing Date: May 2017

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: As retailers shift to combined fulfillment centers instead of having separate facilities for brick-and-mortar, wholesale and direct-to-consumer sales, demand is increasing for materials handling equipment for these new facilities.

According to Canadian Property Management, the manufacturing sector will benefit from declining energy prices and a weak Canadian dollar. Accelerating exports, coupled with lower transportation costs, should translate into increased demand for warehouse/distribution facilities.

Logistics hubs anticipate an export uptick as the improving U.S. economy spurs product demand and the exchange rate favors American importers. Toronto and Montreal warehouse space, with proximity to the Canadian manufacturing belt and large markets in the northeastern U.S., are well situated to capitalize on these trends.

The materials handling sector continues to evolve. The retail landscape in particular has seen major shifts in how people are choosing to shop, creating greater need for “omni-channel fulfillment centers,” which can accommodate both online and offline sales. Trade Data Online reports materials handling equipment imported from Wisconsin has increased from CDN $89 million in 2012 to CDN $120 million in 2016.

Consumers are leading the charge, demanding quick, seamless service in both brick-and-mortar stores and their online counterparts. If they’re at a physical store and can’t find what they need, they expect it delivered from another location. This streamlined process is convenient for buyers, but requires a high level of communication and organization among retail stores, distribution centers and logistics companies.

In the past, it was standard for each retailer to maintain three main distribution centers to accommodate brick-and-mortar stores, wholesale and reseller shipments, and small-scale e-commerce direct-to-consumer. Now, this approach is becoming outdated as merchants are tasked with creating one central “omni-channel” distribution center to handle all requests. The new fulfillment center landscape also requires greater investment in automated material handling systems, which can cut down on time and energy.