The United States is re-opening for business to an economy in recession and a very high unemployment rate, but warehouses and distribution centers are certainly “waking up” to the new challenges ahead.
All of the uncertainty still exists, but within the four walls of your facility, there is still work to be finalized. So, as you re-establish operations, here are some challenges that will be common to all, but also measures for addressing them.
There are days when the amount of time needed will exceed the number of man hours you can dedicate to it, but right now the opposite is probably true, so be sure to prioritize accordingly. Focus first on successful fulfillment operations, then on successful receiving and put-away because while many other activities may be needed, these two are where you’ll best assist your company in recovery.
Peaks and troughs in demand
Recession and unemployment have a high probability of effecting forecasted sales, plus significant peaks and valleys. So, be ready for surprises every morning and assign your warehouse resources to where they’ll best address these peaks. On the other hand, the troughs bring opportunities to catch up on lower priority tasks and, if possible, shorten shifts to save labor dollars.
Regulation and practices
Compliance with new rules on social distancing, occupancy, personal protective equipment and overall health and safety is a must, so know and understand the requirements and meet every one of them. Then, use your creativity and experience to adjust your work practices and processes to gain back your productivity and efficiencies.
When to hire
When the economy bounces back at pace, it might be difficult to maintain service levels, so quantifying when the increased activity in your warehouse equals the need for increased headcount is something to raise with senior management. The biggest challenge is incorporating peaks and troughs as demand and volume will be fickle during recovery.
Proficiency and experience
If, like most companies, you’ve had to terminate or lay off employees, you may not get the same team back, with all their experience and training. This challenge, however, is as an opportunity to re-invigorate your operation with new resources and get them ready to contribute as quickly as possible through training.
Extraordinary times like these require a more focused problem solving skill set, and cuter companies will get back on their feet by learning to address problems by their measure of service to the customer, while other operations diminish in value until that specific need is met.
Adaptable and flexible cloud-based warehouse management systems can help by optimizing space and labor resources to ensure efficiency and productivity improvements. Easily configurable, they also allow for such measures to be quickly and inexpensively enacted.