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By now, the COVID-19 pandemic (and related impact on business) has likely become part of your day-to-day life in the warehouse.

Navigating the various challenges, changes, and issues that seem to arise every single day has become part of your daily routine, even if it still isn’t exactly one you’re happy to deal in. Among the challenges you’ve likely faced with your warehouse during the pandemic is the constant struggle to maintain capacity.

Warehouse capacity, broadly speaking, refers to the amount of product your warehouse is reasonably able to store, process, and fulfill orders with. And while managing warehouse capacity can be challenging on a good day, your ability to stock items and fulfill orders has likely been impacted by the various challenges of the pandemic.

If this is starting to sound a little familiar, here’s a few tips we’ve found to help you manage your warehouse capacity during these strange days:

 

Warehouse Capacity Management Tips

Understand your current space utilization

Even during a time that’s been rife with product shortages and stock issues, space utilization is a crucial part of any warehouse operation. By knowing how many items you can stock, not only can you better respond to potential item shortages, you can also potentially serve as a new fulfillment center for a client that needs extra space to store some of their more popular items, which can be a much-needed source of business if you’re finding yourself short on other important items.

While there is a little math involved, you can quickly calculate your current space utilization by determining the inventory cube size:

 Measure the footprint of all your warehouse storage (shelving, racking, etc)

  • Determine your vertical storage capacity (the height of your available storage, not the width)
  • Multiply the true capacity of each of your storage racks (their total shelving capacity without any pallets or items stored on them) by the total number of racks and shelves you have

By having a clearer idea of your overall space capacity, you can open yourself up to further inventory opportunities and work to become an even more useful partner to your vendors and retailers.

 

Plan your staffing accordingly

Staffing during the pandemic has been a dicey proposition. Social distancing requirements have lessened the amount of workers that can be on the floor at any given time, and workers have been encouraged to take more time off for medical issues to lessen the risk of spreading anything to their teammates.

As able, review your KPIs and sales figures to start determining what your overall staff goals should be, and compare them to your current capacity. Are there frequent bottlenecks caused by a staffing shortage, and if so can you revise your processes to better adapt to the shortage of personnel? The limits of social distancing and employee safety aren’t going to change anytime soon, so learning how to work within these limitations will keep your team far more prepared to deal with any shortages that may arise.

 

Manage the use of your storage space

Finally, how you use the storage space you have is almost as important as how much of it you have. Take the time to measure the storage space on each of your pallet racks and wire shelves to make sure it’s being used as effectively as possible. If a certain item is more consistently out of stock, move the related SKU onto a less frequently-used shelf until it can be stocked more regularly. Keep popular items – or at least the items that can be shipped and sold right now – on the lower, easier-to-access shelves to help your picking team get to them faster and spend less time on the floor. And, finally, be prepared to shift your focus between a number of different items to prioritize depending on changing trends and needs among your customers.

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