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Natural disasters, product shortages, vehicle troubles – warehouses are no strangers to disruption and obstacles.

One of the biggest disruptions that the warehousing industry has faced lately (not to mention the world at large) is the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges posed by social distancing have wreaked havoc on a number of points along the supply chain, from manufacturing to delivery, and the warehousing industry has struggled to find ways to keep up.

While we’re far enough into the pandemic that most warehouses have likely encountered and dealt with these sorts of disruptions and shortages already, it never hurts to be better-prepared going forward. Contained below are a few of the most common disruptions warehouses have encountered, and how your warehouse can better deal with them.

 

Common Warehouse Disruptions During the Pandemic

 

Staffing difficulties

Proper staffing levels can be a tough prospect during the best of times, but with the safety requirements brought about by the spread of COVID-19 it can be even more difficult. Even while social distancing, make sure your staff levels reflect the quantity of orders and products you’re expected to handle, and work backwards from there – create social distancing protocols to control how many workers can be on the floor and where, and make sure your staff has ample sanitation tools on hand.

Of course, this also begs the question of how you can get workers in the first place, as it has been difficult for many warehouses to maintain staff during the pandemic. Keep as open a mind as possible when it comes to staffing inquiries, and make sure you’re only staffed up to the safest possible minimum – too many workers in a social distance environment defeats the purpose, and sending workers home is just counterproductive.

 

Suppliers running low on product

As manufacturers had to start and stop through the year as required by regional safety regulations, the incoming flow of materials and product was inconsistent at best, and an all time low at worst. The problem then trickled down to the rest of the supply chain – what good is a warehouse if it has nothing to store?

While there’s only so much you can do if certain items aren’t being produced or distributed like they used to, there are ways to try to mitigate the damage done. Identify how many of your distributors are encountering product issues, or may be in an area more affected by the virus than others (such as other warehouses in states with higher infection rates) and shop around to see if other distributors with the same items may be a more viable choice in the short-term.

 

Inconsistent product volume in the warehouse

Of course, if your vendors can’t get you the product in the first place, you’re going to start encountering shortages on your end as well. This can have an impact on your daily warehouse operations and how your storage is managed.

Take a look through your warehouse shelving and pallet racks to identify potential areas of shortage or emptiness, and rearrange them as needed. Move the products you can sell to a better place of prominence to help your staff reach them better, and identify all potential shortages to help you keep an eye on what’s missing and what needs to be ordered from alternate sources.

 

Forecast as much as possible

While we’d all love a crystal ball to tell us what exactly is going to happen with our warehouse over the next year, the truth is most of us can’t even get through a shift without something unexpected or detrimental happening. Luckily, analytics can do a little bit to help reduce the sting.

Year-over-year metrics won’t be particularly helpful right now (since nobody saw 2020 going the way it did), but careful study of short-term analytics can give you a better idea of where you’re going. Did certain items sell better in a given time period? Did something start off popular and then quickly drop off? Can you trace back when an item first went out of stock? Knowledge of sales trends will be more important than ever when it comes to keeping your warehouse stocked with the items you need – or, at least, whatever items you can.

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