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Out of all the ways COVID-19 (and the resulting quarantines and shutdowns) have affected the warehouse industry, food storage has perhaps been the segment of warehousing that has been affected the most.

The effects of coronavirus on food warehousing has been two-fold. The most obvious is perhaps the increased need for sterile, safe storage for food – while safe and sterile storage has been a necessity for food safety for as long as anyone can remember, the various risks and difficulties posed by COVID-19 have created an all-new focus on safety for both the products and the workers handling them.

 

But on the flip side, the pandemic has had a major impact on how consumers and vendors handle, request, and disperse product. Throughout the length of the pandemic, panic-buying has been at levels not seen since the Y2k scare of the early millennium, and that’s put a huge strain on grocery stores to keep up with the demand – which puts a greater strain on warehouses trying to funnel needed goods to the stores.

Even as states slowly begin to reopen and everyone tries to figure out if and when things can go back to normal, food storage warehouses may never truly return to the level of activity they experienced before, even during peak seasons. It’s not a big stretch to believe that, going forward, food warehouses will see similar increases in demand and similar needs for safety and storage, even in a post-COVID landscape.

So what does this mean for your warehouse? What sort of adjustments will your warehouse need to make to cope with the demands, both for safety and for product shipments? Here’s a few strategies you can use to help meet demand while keeping your products, workers, and customers safe from contamination:

 

Supplies For Food Warehouses During COVID-19

Sanitation stations: By now, any worker that’s spent any real amount of time in a food warehouse has gotten used to the various needs for sanitization. As COVID-19 spreads, however, warehouses of all types will need to take even greater precautions to keep their workers free of illness and potential contagions, even before they enter the warehouse. At any point where the workers filter in, create a ‘sanitation station’ where they can wash their hands (or at least use hand sanitizer), get their temperature taken, and leave their personal belongings in warehouse lockers before they can even enter the warehouse property to help further curb the spread of germs or other potential illnesses.

 

Increased sterile storage: Safe food storage is a tale as old as time for many warehouses, but in these days of increased caution, everything in your warehouse needs to be stored securely to make sure nothing cross-contaminates between products. Use sterile wire shelving and sterile plastic shelving to store goods in or around the typical food storage areas, preventing the spread of anything from the non-food areas to where the food is stored.

 

Mind temperatures: Paying close attention to the temperature and conditions food needs to be stored in is crucial, even if the shipments are going out faster than normal. Make sure to provide the right amount of walk in cooler shelving to store anything that needs to be kept cold, and provide easy access to temperature-safe packing materials when these items need to go out in a shipment to keep them as safe as possible.

 

Strategies For Food Warehouses After COVID-19

Food storage will take many changing forms even after the pandemic has subsided, and knowing what to do to keep your business and workers safe will be paramount.

No matter what you do, the biggest issue will be focusing on safety. No matter how many times you have to rearrange your shelves, provide hand sanitizer, or hand out medical-grade gloves and masks, these additional layers of safety will need to be factored into your processes and operating budget going forward, the same way you would provide things like coffee for the team.

 

Managing demand will be a huge factor as well. Stores and vendors will need transparent inventory information and clear, frequently updated delivery times more than ever due to the influx of shoppers and the increased demand for various goods. Even if you can’t provide all your shipments right when you need to, being able to tell your customers when they can expect them – or when delays have occurred – will be huge in solving customer problems and maintaining loyalty.

 

Finally, shift management will continue to grow in need and complexity. Social distancing rules aren’t likely to change in most states anytime soon, and  your team will need to work to find the right balance between keeping enough workers on the floor to help get the immense amount of orders out in time, and the need to keep your workers at a safe distance from one another. Space out your shelves as able, provide more coverage in larger areas, and make sure your pickers practice safe rotations to keep them moving smoothly in the right groups.

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