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March 12, 2021

How to Support a Safe, Distanced Warehouse Layout

Well, COVID-19 has turned just about everything upside down in the past few months. But the truth is — warehousing hasn't been able to slow down. Efficiency is more important than ever, now you just also need to change operations to also accommodate the slowed supply chain, increased order numbers, federal regulations, and, most importantly, the safety of your workers and customers.

Part of the solution has been shifting administrative work to remote spaces. However, most on-the-ground warehouse operations literally can’t be done remotely. And with increased eCommerce demand in the previous months, warehousing and distribution of goods have become critical to both economic health and essential consumer needs.

Thus, companies have to rethink their warehouse spaces to balance worker safety, operational efficiency, and facility cost optimization. How? Two simple steps:

  1. Adhering to federal guidelines and
  2. Implementing automation tools to handle the rest

What are the Federal Requirements for Safe Warehouse Layouts?

While warehousing is considered an essential business, distribution facilities are still subject to COVID-19 regulations. In fact, to ensure the safety of all workers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented industry-specific guidelines regarding health practices and warehouse infrastructure.

Some of the key CDC guidelines include the following:

  • Mandate personal hygiene requirements for employees, including hand washing, regular sanitizing, and masks covering both mouth and nose.
  • Enforce social distancing rules between workstations, limit the share of common equipment and properly implementing personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Increase care to disinfecting work stations and all facilities. Studies show the virus can survive on cardboard surfaces up to 24 hours and up to three days on plastic and steel.
  • Limit access to the facility by non-essential visitors, drivers, etc. Provide temperature check stations and require masks for non-employees that must enter the facility.
  • If possible, minimize daily breaks and lunch to on-site locations to limit outside exposure. Hold team meetings in groups of 10 or less or conduct them virtually.

Establishing a safe working environment is the main priority for companies. However, meeting regulations while keeping up with rising demand can result in a just-barely-getting-by scenario. Luckily, there are solutions that can tackle both challenges at once, ensuring that warehouses run more smoothly than ever while maintaining a healthy work environment.

 

How Can Businesses Safeguard their Warehouses?

For companies relying on on-the-ground warehouse workers, social distancing can have significant implications. Your north star for a successful warehouse model: Decrease worker density while maintaining efficient operations. But how can companies implement this model while meeting customer demands?

The key to a safe, distanced warehouse layout design is the deployment of warehouse automation technologies. These solutions can decrease human contact throughout operations while tackling reconfigurations of the line, the process and equipment to deliver efficiencies.

Some warehouse automation solutions and capabilities include the following:

  • Management and Control: Automate inbound and receiving operations, minimizing human contact at every touchpoint. Management solutions track lot, serial, and job numbers, enforce storage rules and streamline order stock and replenishment.
  • Outbound Fulfillment: Ensure quality control while minimizing manual monitoring. Warehouse solutions account for inventory, automate fulfillment cycles and manifest parcel and freight shipping in-house.
  • Data and Reporting: As warehouse operations continue to change to become safer and more efficient, visibility into performance is critical. With reporting and analytics capabilities, automated solutions deliver the data your business needs for regular pulse checks. For instance, knowing which items move quickest (velocity reporting and metrics) informs where and how items can be stored, keeping employees inside of a single area of the warehouse instead of traveling across each other the entire day. Or it can show whether that area can reach the same volume with fewer workers, allowing for distanced picking.

Automation helps to maintain a healthy, distanced working environment. Automated warehouse solutions support a layout that provides a clear, uninterrupted path of goods from one station to the next and ultimately out the door to the customer. For more details on efficient warehouse layout designs, check our guides for an ideal design for small, medium, and large warehouses.

If you’re not sure which category suits you — or you have a specialized warehouse size, layout or requirements — let us know and we’ll guide you on how to best (and safely) optimize your space.

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