The critical role of warehousing during COVID-19

The critical role of warehousing during COVID-19

Warehousing During COVID-19

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The global impact of COVID-19 has transformed businesses across the world with greater attention being given to supply chain optimization to meet essential and non-essential delivery challenges. While enterprises are focusing on meeting consumer demand during the phase-wise opening of the economy, the leading warehousing companies in India are prepared to face complex challenges head-on.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, warehousing enterprises developed key resources, in terms of talent, technology, and processes, to ensure streamlined delivery throughout the period. This included liaising with government bodies for clarification, handling manpower limitations/availability, developing enhanced tracking measures, and offering innovative warehousing solutions for agile delivery. It enabled industries to continue meeting demand in a flexible and highly scalable manner while ensuring timely delivery.

Expanding the scope of warehousing

The role of warehousing expanded significantly during this period with the domain emerging as a critical centre of safety, quality, and compliance. Firms closely followed the government guidelines pertaining to social distancing, sterilization/sanitization, and quarantine to decrease the chances of potential contamination and spreading within the supply chain. Ecommerce enterprises, such as Amazon and Flipkart, focused on expanding warehousing space, adding new staff, and establishing deeper networks to ensure last-mile delivery in Tier II and III markets.

Technology is another critical asset utilized by warehousing firms and industrial parks, for better tracking, analysis, and forecasting. Throughout the pandemic, enterprises were able to leverage automated technologies, such as automated pickers, RFID & IoT controls, GPS fleet trackers, touch-less autonomous mobile robots, and integrated ERP systems, to ensure that there were no disruptions within the supply chain. Leading brands, such as Amul, were able to leverage a comprehensive private cloud & disaster management ERP system that was designed to capture all details about their nation-wide warehouses on a real-time basis.

Introduction of new processes, initiatives, and strategies

Key processes and initiatives were introduced during the COVID-19 lockdown period, to tackle the bottlenecks that were present during the crisis. Zero-contact deliveries, touch-less inventory management, mandatory PPE kits, and automation of handling packages, were leading initiatives driven by global warehousing enterprises to ensure continuation of business processes.

Worker safety is another critical area where warehousing firms focused deeper on. By ensuring social distancing, hygiene, and sanitization warehouses ensured continued movement of the supply chain with minimal disruption. Amazon introduced thermal cameras, worker mobilization systems, and 120 new processes, to limit COVID-19 outbreaks within its facilities.

Also, with online traffic skyrocketing, 25-30 times in some cases, having automated systems played a critical role during the period. Key enterprises were able to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning, to find the best delivery routes, optimal storage processes, and track all movement within containment/high-risk zones.

Additionally, micro-warehouses and rental warehouses/industrial parks were introduced to help manufacturers overcome delivery and warehousing challenges. E.g. essential goods manufacturers could opt for a warehouse space for rent in Delhi, to ensure a disruption-free supply of products within the nation’s capital.

Preparation for future outbreaks of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases

Warehousing is one of the few industries that is well-prepared for a future outbreak of COVID-19 or any other infectious disease. With the processes, people, and policies in place, leading warehouses across India such as IndoSpace have positioned themselves to face future challenges across various degrees. Whether COVID-19 escalate in the coming months or has a recurrent/seasonal component to it, warehouses have developed in-house capabilities to ensure minimal disruption in delivery across product categories.

With global economies opening in a phase-wise manner, firms are increasingly focusing on stocking up goods while leveraging warehouses as critical housing centres. Warehousing has been instrumental in the management of unpredictability through this period, as enterprises move on to the next stages in the demand cycle post-reopening.

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