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How to Keep Your Warehouse Running While Socially Distancing

Material Handling

The COVID-19 Outbreak

The Coronavirus viral outbreak has greatly shifted how we conduct work, with some working from home and many others effectively furloughed. Stay-at-home orders have led to a vast increase in online ordering, meaning distribution centers and manufacturing teams have been thrust into overdrive.

In order to protect the vital staff that man distribution centers, proper preventative measures must be enacted to remain socially distant, and ultimately, curb the infection rate of the virus. Such circumstances have required administration and design staff to consider the integration of new warehouse technologies such as automated storage and distribution systems to further reduce potential for human to human contact.

What This Means for
Manufacturing and Distribution Centers

Manufacturing and distribution operations are a critical facet, maintaining economic integrity and providing necessary products to market quickly and efficiently. However, critical expectations that manufacturing and distribution management is requesting is the ability to store  more in less space with less staff in a work area.

What Warehouse
Managers Can Do To Protect Staff

It is critical that distribution centers recognize their role in maintaining infrastructure, as well as provide the highest level of safety for their workers. Without workers, operations will certainly fail or greatly reduce production. To do so, they must enact temporary alterations and adjustments to their current operational strategy. This could include:

  • Using headsets  instead of communicating face-to-face
  • Provide workers who will be in close contact with other proper PPE (masks, gloves, glasses,  etc.)
  • Create a schedule that accounts for potential sick leave
  • Require regular hand washing between shifts or during transitional periods
  • Reduce shared tools or items to prevent accidental transmission
  • Meet with staff and discuss sick leave expectations / other administrative measures
  • Follow all regional business restrictions related to the stay-at-home orders

Storage to Foster Safe Social Distancing

On top of the preventative measures described above, certain workflow alterations and upgrades may have to be made to limit the number of workers and mutual contact of material. To do so, many companies have implemented an ASRS (automated storage and retrieval system). Warehouse solutions such as a Modula Vertical Lift Module (VLM), incorporate automation and powered vertical storage to reduce time spent fetching items, as well as limit the need for shared equipment such as forklifts or inventory scanners.

Modula VLMs can be arranged in rows or alongside conveyors to maximize production throughput  while simultaneously limiting interpersonal contact--thereby reducing transmission rates of COVID-19 and promoting social distancing. Additionally, Modula Lifts’ steel-frame construction means they can be repeatedly sanitized without fear of deterioration. Installing Modula VLMs not only reduces the potential for viral transmission, but via its intelligent design features such as laser pointers and Copilot operator interface, which can greatly improve order accuracy and inventory count management.

Taking the proper precautions to protect your staff will not only protect your operation, but protect their families, livelihood, and reduce the potential for further outbreaks. Simple precautions such as wiping down equipment or distributing masks can prevent unnecessary illness  and look after the wellbeing of your employees. Further steps, such as transitioning to personal workstations affixed to ASRS’s. Not only will such improvements protect essential staff from the risk of illness, but it will increase productivity and efficiency simultaneously. Overall, be sure that your operation is taking the proper precautionary steps to prevent any further transmission of COVID.

Protect your teams and customers.
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Call: 612.378.3800       Fax: 612.378.3100

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