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Post COVID-19 Warehouse Best Practices – Five essential tips

The COVID-19 pandemic taught us many lessons, like how valuable teachers are and how personal space is priceless! In the supply chain arena, we learned that warehouses are far more essential than most people truly understood. Now that the most hectic times are behind us, we’ve adapted to the lessons learned and integrated new approaches into our day-to-day operations. So, what are the current warehouse best practices in place today due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Here are five that CornerstoneEdge has identified.

1: Embrace Digital Transformation: Digital technologies have been critical in the warehouse space for decades, but the pandemic taught us that digital solutions are a necessity for a smooth functioning warehouse operation. Technologies like Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), robotics, automation, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices enhance operational efficiency, improve inventory visibility, and enable better decision-making. With up-to-date, digital technology, operations can do a better job of demand forecasting, safety stock planning, and ABC analysis to prevent stockouts, minimize excess inventory, and improve order fulfillment rates.

2: Enhance Supply Chain Resilience: The pandemic showed us just how detrimental it can be to have a limited set of suppliers. We quickly learned the necessity of diversifying supplier networks and establishing contingency plans to mitigate disruptions in the supply chain. We now know the value of identifying alternative sourcing options so that if one vendor can’t deliver, we have other avenues to explore. It also highlighted that developing strategic partnerships is an essential step in ensuring a steady flow of goods. What may have been a transactional relationship in the past has had to evolve into something more concrete and dependable so that future disruptions can be navigated in unison.

Bottom line, your organization would do well to invest in multiple relationships with different vendors to create a mini-chain of access. Rather than relying on one supplier for a critical item, having two or three lined up will help eliminate the delays and stress associated with stockouts.

3: Enhance Data Analytics Capabilities: The pandemic quickly exposed vulnerabilities in global supply chains, leading to disruptions in the availability of raw materials, components, and finished goods. Using data analytics, warehouses can identify potential supply chain risks, such as supplier disruptions or transportation delays, by analyzing real-time data on inventory levels, lead times, and supplier performance. Operations can then stay ahead by using that data to implement proactive mitigation measures, like changing production schedules or looking for alternative suppliers.

Data analytics tools can also help warehouses gain actionable insights into performance and customer demand trends. Historical sales data and consumer behavior patterns provide operations with insights into future demand fluctuations more accurately. This is crucial for adjusting inventory levels and ensuring sufficient stock of essential goods while preventing overstocking of non-essential items. 

4: Flexible Workforce Management: During the lockdown, many operations were forced to adopt remote work arrangements to enable employees to keep working while maintaining business continuity and fostering safety in the workplace. Remote working wasn’t necessarily a fit for warehouse work, but flexible staffing arrangements such as staggered shifts and cross-training initiatives did come into play and helped operations adapt to fluctuating demand patterns while minimizing the risk of workforce shortages due to illness.

Warehouse associates now expect more flexibility in their day-to-day work. Providing a slightly earlier start time to allow employees to pick up their kids from school, or providing a greater variety of tasks, will go a long way in fostering employee loyalty and ensuring your operations are retaining staff and functioning as efficiently as possible. 

5: Invest in Employee Training and Development: There is no denying it, your labor force is the most valuable asset in your entire warehouse. Without your associates, you’re left with a large building, expensive equipment, and no action! Investing in employee growth will only benefit your operation. Initiatives such as comprehensive training programs and professional development opportunities to equip warehouse staff with the skills and knowledge needed to adapt to any changing operational requirements are key. And leveraging new technologies to complete lower-level tasks will enable associates to focus on more enjoyable value-add jobs.

Fostering a culture of continuous improvement within your operations is important. Listen to your employees, solicit feedback from them, monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), and regularly review and refine warehouse processes to drive operational excellence and adaptability. The pandemic taught us that being nimble is essential, no matter the industry. Empowering your employees to have the upper hand in their positions will only strengthen the operation as a whole.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored how critical agility, resilience, and innovation are in warehouse operations. We believe adopting these five best practices will be the key to supply chain success for warehouses moving forward. It’s not always easy to know what your operation needs to thrive, that’s where we come in. As supply chain experts, we can perform a thorough analysis of your operation to identify what your pain points are and how to best address them. If you’re looking for a supply chain partner who will stick with you through the good times and bad, reach out


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