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The idea of ‘social distancing’ has been tough for some – but when it comes to warehouse work, it can be harder than expected.

Even the most spacious and well-laid-out warehouse can get a little cramped from time to time, and even if your team isn’t showing any symptoms of coronavirus, it can be hard to give everyone the breathing room they need to avoid infections.


One of the core causes of issues with social distancing in warehouses is the overall warehouse layout. In a lot of cases, warehouses tended to bring in more warehouse shelving as needed to help expand capacity, which necessitated a reduction in floor space. Even in warehouses where proper aisle widths and traffic patterns were planned for and observed, it can be tough for workers to space themselves out properly when trying to retrieve items.

The solution to this may be a little easier than you’re expecting. Instead of spending the time moving your shelves around and renovating your warehouse, better social distancing can be encouraged through inventory reorganization.


By placing an emphasis on your most popular items in specific areas and the rest of your inventory elsewhere, you can help avoid a large gathering of workers in one area, creating a vulnerability. Consider something like moving your fastest-selling or most in-demand items to wire shelving in an easily-accessible area, or reorganize your pallet racks to place a stronger focus on the items that are getting picked most often right now, which may or may not be items that were in demand before all of this went down.


From there, the less-popular inventory can be moved elsewhere. Free up space by moving them to the storage racks in the back, or even up onto a mezzanine when possible, to make sure there’s no commingling between the workers headed for the popular items and anyone picking the less-essential goods.


The problem isn’t totally solved yet, though. Even if your workers have less travel time while getting their needed items, you’ll still need to make sure their travel schedules are adjusted to prevent too many workers on the floor at once. As orders come in and items are marked for pickup, make sure to adjust the amount of items each worker is sent out to retrieve to not keep anyone on the floor too long, decreasing their risk of coming into contact with other workers.


Similarly, a close eye should be kept on how many workers are picking items at once. Try to establish a FIFO rule for your picking staff – set a maximum amount of workers on the floor, and when you hit that limit, wait until someone comes back before sending out any more staff.


And, of course, don’t let anyone get within six feet of each other, and make sure everyone has masks.

It may take a while, but we’ll all get through this together with a little careful thought and planning.

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