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A new warehousing model?

By Susan Lacefield | March 06, 2015 | 11:33 AM

My colleague Mark Solomon has done an excellent job of covering “Uber-like” service providers—like 10-4, Cargomatic, and Box Smart—which match loads with unused truck capacity.

 A similar phenomenon is also being seen in the warehousing space with the company Flexe.

Flexe is a service provider that helps companies share underutilized warehousing capacity by matching those that need space to store their products with those that have excess space. In a sense, it provides a spot market for warehousing space.

Last week, the event and research company eyefortransport did an interesting webcast with Flexe CEO and Co-founder Karl Siebrecht and one the company’s customers, Dhruv Agarwal, CEO of True Fabrications, which sells wine accessories. Cleverly the webcast title described Flexe as being “AirBnB for Warehousing.”

In his presentation, Agarwal said that using Flexe has allowed his company to grow without having to expand its warehousing space. “It allows us to act as if we have a warehouse twice as big [as what we currently have],” Agarwal said. 

That’s one of the biggest advantages of Flexe, according to Siebrecht. “Warehousing is the most fixed of all assets in the supply chain,” he says. By allowing companies to tap into other organizations’ unused warehousing space, Flexe helps companies create much more flexible and responsive supply chains without having to increase fixed cost.

This type of model does seem to have a lot of potential, in particular for seasonal products. Additionally retailers might find this one way to respond to the need to have more product stored closer to the customer to fulfill omnichannel retailing and e-commerce demands. 

The big question, of course, is security. After all, there have been numerous reported cases of Uber drivers sexually assaulting customers and the unforgettable story of the AirBnB customer that refused to leave. How can you prevent the warehousing equivalent of this from happening to you? Flexe insists that it screens all its partners to meet standards of service and has a rigorous training and onboarding process. 

While there are certainly a lot of unknowns about this new model that may make a cautious person hesitate, it’s definitely an idea worth keeping an eye on, and I would love to hear from anyone who has had experience with Flexe or other similar models.

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