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If one was being optimistic, we could consider much of 2020 to be…a learning experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the related safety regulations, shut downs, and changes in business we all endured, taught us a lot about how our warehouses worked, and how further emergencies can impact our warehouse operations down the road.

Even as things look the most promising that they have in a while, thanks to the impending vaccine sometime in the next year allowing a large relaxation of the various restrictions and requirements, there’s still a lot of lessons to be learned from COVID-19, and the impact it had on our businesses.

 

Lessons Learned from COVID-19

The challenges we all faced in our warehouses thanks to COVID-19 are unique to every warehouse’s own specific circumstances and needs, but there’s a few challenges it’s safe to say we all faced in the last year or so, including:

  • The need for flexible supply chains: As various items shot up and down in demand over the past year, as well as the numerous challenges in shipping and manufacturing that COVID-19 unleashed on the world, supply chains across the world were impacted. This led warehouses to learn to be more flexible about where their inventory came from – channel switches became common, certain vendors were able to step in where others couldn’t before, and communication with vendors and customers became paramount to maintaining relationships. This flexibility will likely stay with warehouses through the coming years, as product shortages are always sure to arise, pandemic or not.
  • An increased need for on-site storage: While we have the COVID-19 pandemic to thank for the increase in ecommerce sales, we can’t expect those numbers to go back down anytime soon. As a result, many warehouses had to buy wire shelving, buy pallet racks, and order warehouse shelving to keep up with the demand, and those new shelves will continue to come in handy as the amount of online, direct-to-customer orders grows through the near future.
  • Redesigned layouts for social distancing: New shelves weren’t the only new feature warehouses needed to adapt to in recent times. Work was done to increase aisleways, reduce the flow of traffic, and prevent too many workers from gathering in one area at one time. Even after the vaccine rolls out and the disease becomes less of a risk, these changes will likely stay in place as a standard feature in warehouses going forward to lessen the spread of any future illnesses.
  • Business plans that can change with the times: Generally speaking, business plans for warehouses and distribution centers weren’t known to be updated except in cases of great change in the industry or their relationship with vendors. The last year, and the changes that COVID-19 hath wrought, tended to change all that, and warehouses needed to learn to be more flexible in their dealings. Going forward, many warehouses may continue revising and refining their business plans to keep up with whatever other changes life may throw at them – because, rest assured, there’s always bound to be something.

 

While these are only a handful of the changes warehouses experienced over the past year, perhaps the best lesson to take away from it all is to be flexible, and prepare for the unexpected.

 Because if there’s one thing we’ve seen a lot of this year, it’s the unexpected.

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