One side-effect of 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic has been a heightened awareness of “safety” in the realm of hygiene, especially food and groceries. Early last year we were treated to videos of how to handle your groceries after you bring them home and generated such a high volume of prepared food delivery that we developed “contactless” delivery where someone in a mask rushes up to your door and leaves a non-descript package in front of it before texting you to get you to open the door (yes, how things have changed!).
‘Twas the week before Christmas,
And in the warehouse,
EVERYTHING was moving, it was a madhouse.
The entire year itself, was off the rails,
No one saw it coming, but one day they’ll tell the tale,
Of “The Year that Wasn’t”, or “The Year That Never Ends.”
A year after which the world will need much to mend.
With the onset of winter in the midst of an Ecommerce boom and the public hearing news about vaccines requiring a super-cold environment as low as -80 degrees Fahrenheit, many facilities are learning for the first time the importance of temperature in the printing, application, and storage of labels.
If your products will get cold or be exposed to extreme temperatures, it’s vital that you choose the right label materials, adhesives, and printing processes for your situation. Not planning properly in this regard can lead to label failure and damage to your brand's reputation.
2020, for all its faults, is the year that almost every company and business “decided” to finally jump into Ecommerce. This includes not only selling online directly to end users, but the various means of getting the product into their hands including in-store fulfillment. While Retailers’ online sites in 2018 totaled sales over $400 billion, they will far exceed that in 2020 and are expected to grow to over $700 billion in 2020, with some of the fastest growth coming in food and beverage (23.4% - 58.5%) and health and beauty increasing from 16.6% to 32.4%. (source: eMarketer.com). That pace along with the expected drop in total brick-and-mortar sales means Ecommerce will make up over 14% of total retail sales in 2020.
While the term “social distancing” is the common parlance we all use and hear every day during the pandemic, the CDC also uses “physical distancing” with the same definition – “keeping a safe space – currently defined as at least 6 feet – between individuals from different households.” Given our focus is always on the workplace, we’ve been using “physical distancing” and will continue to do so. But how do you enforce it at the workplace? If there has been one thing that the recent spikes and the difficulty of the last seven months have proved is that the discipline required to eliminate workplace disruptions has been difficult to maintain on a voluntary basis.
This week we’d like to dive into some industry data from the annual “Industry Outlook Report” that is published every year by Logistics Management and Modern Materials Handling. It’s a comprehensive survey of decision makers with purchasing authority for materiel handling solutions, and it’s often a useful way to validate some of the trends and challenges we see in our own client base as well as learn about others that may have been out of our purview.
Many Changes are Here to Stay
If there is one thing that last two months have demonstrated, it is both the resilience that has sustained many supply chains during an unprecedented health and economic crisis, AND the reality that we will never be going back to doing things the same way again. Industries that were deemed “essential” like food distribution, healthcare and other logistics-heavy operations have in many cases had to deal with unprecedented velocity and strain on capacities, all while trying to prevent losing capacity to illness and fatigue.
How Do You Create The "Touchless Warehouse"?
One of the mainstay principles of good process design in the distribution center has always been to "minimize touches". It's a very basic concept that drives home the point that items should get from A to B with as few touches as possible, preferably just ONE. But the upheaval stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic is ironically putting intense pressure on the distribution and logistics side of many industries while other areas of the business may be scaling back (i.e. the storefront). The Food & Beverage industry, in particular, is an "essential" business and if the shelves of your local supermarket are any indication, the velocity of materials flying through that supply chain must be well above norms even for a pre-holiday shopping week. But the increased pressure on the supply chain comes not only from the high demand, but also from the fear of losing employees to extended sick leave because of the spread of the virus. How can a distribution center and other areas of the supply chain fulfill their mission while not just preserving, but INCREASING employee safety beyond your standard solutions? This is the question we asked ourselves while conceptualizing what we are now calling the "Touchless Warehouse". It's no longer just about "minimizing touches" but now it's about "minimizing TOUCHING" altogether.