Certain aspects of the COVID effect, such as wearing masks, keeping a 6-foot distance from others, and remote learning, are (hopefully) just transitory. The influence of COVID on warehouse management, on the other hand, will be long-lasting. We noticed a rippling effect as the infection swept over the planet. An epidemic of transit delay in one region of the world would have a disastrous impact on the rest of the world, forcing shutdowns owing to warehouse closures or missing or delayed supplies. The worldwide supply chain struggled to keep up with the virus's spread.
Some businesses were left with surplus merchandise that they couldn't ship, languishing in inventory at the warehouse. Others were at a halt as they waited for the stock to be delivered to their depleted warehouse. Combining supply chain nightmares with unpredictable consumer behaviour - some industries witnessed tremendous demand, while others saw market collapse - has warehouses in a jam.
The supply chain has partly stabilised, and warehouses have made short-term modifications to accommodate client demand to the best of their abilities. However, now is the moment to start thinking about the long term. As we struggle to manage our lives in today's new "normal," we present: The following are some of the ways COVID will permanently change warehouse management and distribution.
1. Practising social distancing as a hygiene measure
Even once COVID is no longer a danger and mask laws are repealed, social separation will persist. Although it may not be 6-feet, warehouses will keep workers wider apart than before to COVID. This involves the upkeep of one-way traffic aisles, sanitization stations, and dedicated work zones. Keeping these procedures in place helps to avoid the spread of future pandemics and common cold and flu viruses. However, to guarantee the general health and safety of the workers, some degree of social separation is unavoidable.
2. Keeping extra Inventory on Handy
Before the pandemic, most firms in warehouse management had implemented lean manufacturing as a best practice. Receiving items just-in-time (JIT) for production reduced inventory costs and maximised space use. However, when COVID struck, this lean strategy left many firms with inventory shortages and, in other cases, led output to halt entirely.
While lean manufacturing will continue to be a recommended practice, the balance between JIT inventory and safety stock will shift. Manufacturers will retain additional lists (buffer stock) on hand to avoid future inventory shortages, leading to production shutdowns. The exact amount will depend on a variety of circumstances, but overall inventories will grow.
This will exacerbate warehouse space and capacity challenges. Many warehouses failed to find space for social distance due to inefficient warehouse management planning, and now they will need room to manage this increased inventory.
3. Start using warehouse Automation.
Incorporating warehouse automation in warehouse management has been steadily gaining popularity for years, but COVID will hasten its adoption like many other things. Warehouses will turn to automated storage and retrieval systems to help reclaim floor space and improve workforce efficiencies as they deal with adjusting inventory counts, making space for work in process (WIP), speeding order delivery, implementing social distancing and decentralisation, and implementing social distancing and decentralisation.
Compared to standard shelving, automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) may reclaim up to 85 per cent of current floor space. Warehouses require this extra capacity to fulfil the post-COVID problems. In addition, ASRS, when combined with pick-to-light systems and integrated inventory management software, can assist warehouses in resolving labour difficulties and managing unforeseen surges in demand.
4. Reshoring and Nearshoring of Manufacturing
COVID wreaked havoc on the global supply chain in ways no one could have predicted. Manufacturers are reevaluating their operations as the global supply chain begins to stabilise. Many people are thinking about reshoring/nearshoring — bringing manufacturing tasks in-house or closer to home. This has made warehouse management a challenge.
Reshoring manufacturing activities will give companies more control over their supply chains, avoiding future crises while saving money on air and ocean freight transit. In addition, to avoid being trapped in another global supply chain catastrophe, reshoring initiatives are gaining hold and will necessitate increased storage space.
5. Scalable Processes and Picking Strategies
While some warehouses were swamped with orders and had workforce and inventory difficulties, facilities just down the street saw orders dry up. We were left with a surplus of inventory. Most warehouse management struggles to keep up with wild changes in order demand.
Following COVID, warehouses will attempt to create scalable systems to accommodate unpredictable demand. Warehouses will utilise a combination of material handling technology and software solutions to deploy variable order picking techniques that will allow them to take peaks (and troughs) in order demand quickly.
6. Have more Inventories in the pipeline
Warehouse management will need to create room for increased WIP due to uncertain supply networks. Since COVID, supply chain disruptions have become prevalent, and manufacturers must be prepared to deal with them. When parts are delayed, manufacturers are left with a half-finished product (WIP) that has to be finished. WIP inventory adds up. Manufacturers will require a way to control WIP stockpiles not to be destroyed or lost while waiting to be completed. Increased WIP inventory will be another impetus for implementing high-density automation into the warehouse.
7. Increase the capacity of warehouses
Warehouse management will require extra capacity after COVID for a variety of reasons. Growing inventory on hand, satisfying increased demand, and additional space for social distancing contribute to more storage sites and capacity. This extra capacity may be distributed in smaller, more localised or decentralised warehouses, but the aggregate capacity of the total warehouse area will grow. Warehouse managers will also utilise ASRS technology to enhance the ability inside a single facility to retain more goods on hand or scale up for eCommerce order fulfilment.