You can’t do warehouse work from home, and it’s an essential part of a nation’s supply chain. So, the warehouse workers are likely to experience COVID-19 restrictions in the workplace for the foreseeable future.
Some changes like redesigning facilities, from layout to scheduling, help protect workers and let businesses ship, and buyers receive products on time. Various other transformations can be made for smooth processing of the warehouse layout design like:
Separate the warehouse into separate picking and packing zones, with sufficient space in between each. In the past, many warehouses functioned by having one worker picking the whole order.
It would entail traveling all over the warehouse before you deliver the entire order to the packing zone. But, the practice can make it difficult to strictly adhere to the 2 meters/ 6-feet social distancing requirements and cause a lot of crossover contact between the workers.
So, consider dividing all the parts of the warehouse into specific zones and restrict your workers to a few aisles or areas for picking. It would restrict the spaces that workers are in and limits exposure to others.
Once the order is assembled, make sure you maintain at least 6 feet of space between where the pickers drop off the items and the packers assemble orders.
Keeping More Inventory on Hand
Before the pandemic, most manufacturers had adopted the lean manufacturing practice. Receiving the goods just in time for manufacturing kept the inventory costs low and utilized the space more effectively. The post-covid period saw poor strategy leaving many manufacturers with inventory shortages and, at times, causing production to stop completely.
Lean manufacturing may remain the best practice, but the balance between JIT inventory and safety stock can change. To prevent future inventory shortages and eventually production shutdown, manufacturers can keep more inventory on hand. The exact number can depend on various factors, but the overall inventory on hand will increase.
It will escalate warehouse space and capacity issues. Many warehouses had struggled to make space for social distancing and will need extra space to manage the additional inventory.
Masks and gloves are a must in many workplaces now and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. As an employer, you have an option to require employees to wear their own masks, or you can provide disposable masks and gloves at the beginning of the shift.
Personal protective gear is just as effective as the people maintaining it. Fabric masks must be washed often, and employees must avoid touching the faces even while wearing gloves.
Changing gloves frequently and washing hands or using hand sanitizer often helps to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. Teaching your employees how to wear personal protective gear properly is of utmost importance.
Increased Use of Warehouse Automation
Warehouse automation is gaining steady traction over the years, but COVID will speed up its adoption. Warehouses are coping with adjusting inventory counts, creating space for work in progress, speeding up order delivery, implementing social distancing and decentralization.
So, they will gradually turn to automated storage and retrieval systems to help reclaim the floor space and improve the workforce’s efficiency.
Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) help recover up to 85% of existing floor space in comparison with standard shelving. Warehouses do need the additional capacity to meet post-COVID challenges.
In combination with a pick to light systems and integrated inventory management software, ASRS may help warehouses solve labor challenges and manage unpredictable spikes in demand.
Accelerated Growth of eCommerce
The Post COVID period has seen a recent surge in demand for eCommerce. As per Forbes, the pandemic accelerated eCommerce growth by about 4 to 6 years. The total online spending in May 2020 was up 77% year over year.
Warehouse and distribution centers are no new to eCommerce, but the rapid increase in demand has led them to struggle to keep up. Many consumers are eager to return to in-store shopping, but the data suggests that the eCommerce boom won’t subside even after the COVID relents.
As per a recent survey by Bizrate Insights, 60% of shoppers reported buying products online instead of in-store due to COVID-19, and 32% of them expect to continue shopping online.
Read about: Traditional ERP System vs eCommerce Software
Embracing Omni-Channel Distribution
Just as eCommerce, omni-channel distribution is on a roll too. As the warehouses shift from picking full cases for retail locations to picking individual items for end customers, they must also manage multiple delivery options.
Omni-channel lets customers purchase from anywhere (in-store and online) and deliver the product where they would like to. It also includes the product return.
Customers always demand, but just like eCommerce, the trend of omni-channel won’t go away anytime soon. It leaves warehouse and distribution centers to look for advanced processes, technologies, and software to support omni-channel distribution.
While we settle for post-COVID lives, the only thing certain is that nothing is certain. Companies are developing backup plans for their backup plans for a better warehouse layout. Owing to an unpredictable future, warehouse and distribution centers look to adapt and be as flexible as possible.
The main focus shall remain on utilizing space best and efficiently managing their labor expenses through the proper warehouse and inventory management.
Dev Upadhyay enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in immersing himself in learning about new and exciting areas. He loves to binge-watch documentaries about science and society. Being a travel freak, he's very adventurous and fun-loving.
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