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Even as warehouses attempt to get back to ‘normal’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, most operations have had to find ways to update themselves for safety.

The risk of coronavirus being spread through crowded workplaces and/or outgoing shipments still looms large, and many warehouses have had to implement stricter safety & hygiene rules to keep their staff safe. Among these changes, aimed at providing a safer workplace as well as a safer delivery experience, is the rise of hands free warehousing.

 

What is hands-free warehousing?

Hands free warehousing refers to the idea of reducing the amount of ‘touches’ an item receives as it moves through a warehouse, as well as streamlining the tools a worker needs to perform counts, pick items, and complete other daily warehouse tasks.

‘Touches’, in this case, refers to the amount of individual workers that come into contact with a single given item (or single given order, in the case of batch picking or order picking) as it works its way to the customer. This includes order pickers, the shipping/receiving team (as they prepare the items to go to their final destination), and even the amount of logistics personnel that handle the item during delivery.

While the information is still a little inconsistent as to how much of a role surface transmission plays in the spread of COVID-19, going more hands-free and reducing the amount of touches your items encounter can go a long way towards keeping your staff safer and healthier overall, as well as your customers.

 

How can my warehouse go hands-free?

Even small changes to how items get tracked, counted, and processed in your warehouse can go a long way towards being more hands-off with your product handling. Some easy-to-implement hands-free warehousing methods include:

  • Tools for transporting products: Even something as simple as finding faster ways to move products to and from their destination in the warehouse can help reduce the amount of contact your workers have with your inventory. As space allows, use gravity conveyors to help move products directly from the shelves back to the packing/shipping department, reducing the need for more workers to come into direct contact with it.
  • Reduce the touches on shelved products: Even if an item isn’t specifically being picked, it can still encounter a lot of touches from workers trying to get to the item they need. For more densely-packed warehouse shelves, use roller racks to help product move more efficiently without being directly touched by a large number of workers.
  • Updated scanning equipment: Outdated handheld scanners are one of the biggest sources of touches in the warehouse. By upgrading your scanners to be more effective from far away, your workers can scan barcodes and get updated product counts without needing to come into direct contact with the item itself. Use things like IR scanners with improved cameras (or get IR apps for your mobile devices, if they’re more advanced than your scanners are) to help your team count items from farther away, and consider something like augmented reality glasses for really involved picking jobs.
  • Automate your supply chain: For high-volume shipments or deliveries, you should work with your logistics partners to see if they have automated/hands-free deliveries available. As available in your service area, look into solutions like drone delivery and automated logistics handling to help give your customers that little extra peace of mind with their products.

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