How to Use COVID-19 Downtime to Benefit Your Distribution Center
There is no denying that COVID-19 has disrupted the global supply chain. China’s role as the “world’s factory” means that any disturbance in production or transportation within China will surely impact businesses around the globe, as we’ve seen clearly over the past months.
The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic are not within any individual organization’s control, but warehouses and distribution centers do have the power to control how they respond. In fact, there are ways for U.S. suppliers to leverage downtime to their advantage.
While business as usual has slowed, now is the ideal time to actively seek opportunities to improve processes, invest in employees and operations, and boost productivity. When the global supply chain recovers from COVID-19, your organization will be lightyears ahead of those that focused solely on cutting costs.
Deep Clean Your Facility
Is your distribution center looking a bit sparse these days? Take advantage of the lower product volumes by conducting a deep cleaning that hits those regularly-missed areas. Sweep under the racks to clear any built-up debris, clean the grime off equipment and machinery, and toss out miscellaneous junk that has been cluttering up your floorspace.
With all the focus on cleanliness right now, it’s also a good idea to sanitize your facility to create a clean, healthy workspace for your employees. When production begins ramping up again, your distribution center will be optimized for maximum productivity.
Offer Employee Training and Education
Downtime doesn’t mean your employees should be sitting around bored—and believe it or not, they don’t want that either. With a large portion of the U.S. workforce facing layoffs and pay cuts, your team members are likely feeling anxious about their job security. Offering workshops and training programs for your employees is a great way to provide some relief and boost morale, as well as improve productivity.
Use this downtime to cross-train your employees to handle new tasks and projects that are outside their usual scope of work. Workshops might include topics like occupational safety, team building, customer service, communication, or complex problem-solving. These training programs can easily be conducted virtually as webinars.
Training not only helps employees perform better in their current roles, it also develops their abilities for future growth which can boost talent retention. The cherry on top? You won’t need to sacrifice valuable time for training during those busier months in the future.
Evaluate, Plan, and Adapt
Your business has an abundance of time right now, so use that to your advantage and save yourself time in the future. This downtime presents a great opportunity to evaluate your current business model and operational processes, and make adjustments as needed.
Areas of focus might include labor planning, evaluating alternate supply sources, production scheduling, pinpointing program inefficiencies, or global scenario planning. Lower inventory volumes in your warehouse or distribution center also make this a good time for slotting changes. Could your inventory be slotted more efficiently to reduce travel time?
While you’re at it, consider knocking out a full physical inventory count and brainstorming process improvements. In short, use this time to develop corrective action plans that will boost productivity once your inventory recovers in the future.
It’s difficult to predict how long the global supply chain will remain disrupted by COVID-19. What we do know is that organizations that use this forced downtime efficiently will be better positioned for success once the economy has recovered.
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