While many industries are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and were forced to shut down operations, the logistics sector is working nonstop to ensure the smooth deliveries of supplies and other essentials. However, several warehouses are experiencing challenges in running their business while staying afloat amid the crisis.
Warehouses are integral in supply chains. They are key in ensuring that economies flourish and that the manufacturing and distribution of services are in full swing. This is why it’s important to maintain warehouses’ efficiency and address issues that interfere with vital warehouse processes.
In this post, we identify the important steps you can take to keep your operations as productive and efficient as possible during the pandemic.
Ways to Keep Warehouse Operations Efficient
Develop a Risk Management Plan
To determine issues and better identify solutions, businesses must craft a risk management plan. This plan must be revisited and updated regularly with respect to the pressing issue at the time (in this case, the pandemic).
While countries were not prepared to deal with the coronavirus disease, your protocols and procedures must be modified to tackle the ongoing developments related to it.
Specifically, your risk management plan should cover the following areas of concerns:
- Coordinating with suppliers – Align your schedule with the production plans of your suppliers. Have backup sources for products and services to avoid delays in your production. To keep up with the times, figure out if there’s a need to lessen the number of inbound orders or cancel pending ones. Determine if you can manage critical supplies as they come.
- Handling customers – Work on a plan to address their concerns. Level expectations with them and inform them of possible order increases or reductions due to the pandemic.
- Coordinating with transportation service providers – Controlling inbound and outbound freight is one of the most important areas you need to address. Evaluate the condition of inbound and outbound logistics (from carriers, brokers, to ports). If needed, make sure to work on arrangements with carriers regarding round-the-clock pickup and delivery services.
Ensure Adequate Labour Force
Your workforce is and will always be your greatest asset, especially during these challenging times. There should be enough pairs of hands who can work during peak demand times and when some of your team members are unavailable because of an illness.
Plan out how to manage the excess number of workers in case demand slows down. Are you able to maintain the current headcount if you reduce their work hours?
What’s more, your company must establish a plan on how you can support your key team members. Can you cover for them when they’re ill? Can you train other employees so they can do the job of a team member who’s ill? Have you documented your processes to guide employees who are not familiar with them?
Split Your Teams, Rotate Shifts
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes that the coronavirus is mainly spread through close personal contact. One infected person can infect many people through respiratory droplets released when they talk, cough, or sneezes.
To prevent this, it’s important to limit the number of people converging in one area to minimize the virus’s risk. In a warehouse setting, split your teams and distribute them to different shifts. Teams should be consistent to avoid possible transmission. Stagger break times to limit the exposure of workers to others.
Consider scheduling your employees’ shifts so they won’t have to use public transportation during peak hours.
Beef Up Safety in Your Operations
Below are the best practices you should consider when promoting safety and efficiency in your warehouse operations and to continuously improve your process:
- Create a clear and inclusive communications strategy when disseminating safety protocol information and operation reminders within and outside your company. Develop a plan to distribute instructions to your managers, staff, customers, and suppliers.
- Implement personal hygiene requirements for all employees. These include regular hand washing and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work.
- Enforce physical distancing. There must be enough space for warehouse workers to maintain a distance of at least 2 metres (or 6 feet) apart from others. If possible, set work-from-home arrangements to reduce the number of people in the workplace.
- Disinfect work areas and other common rooms, including the restroom and breakroom. Disinfect surfaces like desks, handrails, doorknobs, switches, machines, and heavy equipment are frequently used by the workers. Research shows that the coronavirus can live on plastic and steel surfaces for 3 days.
- Provide alcohol-based sanitizers and wipes. Make them easily accessible to employees.
- Limit access to the warehouse facility. As much as possible, meet drivers and visitors in the yard. Take their temperatures and let them wash their hands before entering the establishment.
- Limit designated break areas to on-site locations so that employees are not exposed to possible infections outside. To enforce social distancing, reduce interaction among employees throughout shifts. Hold meetings in smaller groups (with 10 people at most).
- Set up temperature check stations at entrances and exits. Do not let employees enter the facility if they have a fever, cough, or colds.
- Allow employees to take sick leaves. Anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms must stay home and self-isolate for 2 weeks.
Consider Hiring a Third-Party Logistics Provider
COVID-19 has disrupted economies; businesses have found it difficult to focus on many aspects of their operations, including logistics. You must focus your time, budget, and attention on the most crucial facet of your business — your operations. Entrusting your transportation needs to a third-party logistics provider allows you to focus on streamlining your processes and protecting your employees.
Also, below are the benefits of hiring a third-party logistics company in improving your efficiency:
- Cost savings – It’s an expensive move to purchase or lease trucking equipment if you lack transportation to sustain daily operations. When you leave freight logistics to a moving company, you can allocate that budget to other important areas.
- Minimized exposure to infection – A third-party logistics team can help you protect your warehouse employees from possible exposure to outside risks of infection.
- Faster operations – Online shopping is increasingly in demand. When it comes to pickup, delivery, storage, and sorting out of goods, you can trust a third-party logistics provider to do this job seamlessly for you. It helps promote quick processes.
As the world transitions into the new normal, warehouses should rethink and rebuild their processes to protect their teams and better serve their clients. Keeping your employees’ safety in mind, improving your operations, and satisfying your customers are important factors for your business to continue to thrive in the midst of a crisis.