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Warehouse downtime is a big obstacle under the best of circumstances, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be an absolute nightmare.

Thanks to the ever-quickening nature of ecommerce, customers are expecting their deliveries faster than ever, and any gap between receiving and processing their order can lead to a complete loss in your relationship with that customer, who has surely already gone on to buy the same product with someone else. Someone that’s not you.

As ecommerce orders have reached all-time highs during the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing this downtime and keeping your products flowing smoothly is going to be key for customer retention. Whatever your warehouse sells, here’s a few ways to help maximize your productivity and minimize downtime throughout your warehouse:

 

Reduce Warehouse Downtime During the Pandemic

Understand Any Potential Bottlenecks

A lot of warehouse workers try to identify potential downtimes by the end product – in this case, meaning how quickly an item is processed and shipped. However, a lot of downtime and bottlenecks are caused by issues along the way, above and beyond when and where the item gets shipped from.

Monitor your processes to see if there’s a point where items get hung up – does one of your vendors take too long to refill your orders? Is there a point in the picking process where things get too hard to find? Are some of your items just too difficult to get to? Any one of these could cause a slowdown in the picking process, and may lead to greater issues down the road.

 

Optimize Workflows to Account for Social Distancing

During the pandemic, you’re likely facing some sort of restriction on the number of workers that can be on the floor at one time. This can lead to issues with your productivity, but they can be easily amended with a little imagination. Make sure your warehouse workers are given the most optimal paths to travel to pick the most items they can on any given run during the picking process, and make sure to limit the amount of workers who can pick at one time.

 

Refine Your Layout As Needed

One of the most common causes of warehouse downtime and delays is difficulty in finding an item, and one of the most common causes of lost items is poor warehouse layout. Make sure to rearrange your pallet racks to let the most popular items sit somewhere they’ll be easier to find, and try to leave enough space between your warehouse shelves and wire shelves to avoid creating congestion or traffic.

 

Document & Train on All New Processes

During the pandemic, you’ve probably learned the hard way how often things can change, and how fast your business needs to adapt as a result. One of the biggest challenges this can create is the need for new processes, and the further need to train your employees on them. As the way you do business evolves to keep up with the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, make sure your new processes and rules are clearly documented, shared among your team, and able to answer any questions that may arise.

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