There is no doubt we are 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 challenges ahead - and this gives me hope.
All of the uncertainty still exists, but within the four walls of your facility, there is demand for work. As you re-establish operations, here are some challenges that will be common to all, but also suggestions for addressing them.
- Leaner processes - 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 affecting 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, PPE, plus overall health & 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 our economy bounces back at pace, it might be difficult for you to maintain your 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 you’ll have though is incorporating point 2 (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 WMS like SnapFulfil can help, by optimizing space and labor resources to ensure efficiency and productivity improvements. Easily configurable, it also allows for such measures to be quickly and inexpensively enacted.