After doubts and preparations, businesses in all industries start reopening. And, of course, they need restock on finished products (for retail) or raw materials and parts (for manufacturing). As a logical consequence warehouses and distribution hubs are also reopening.
However, as excited as logistics, operations, and sales managers may be to be truly back in business, they need to be cautious. The danger is not yet over. Your employees, your third party suppliers and your customers need to be assured that your workplace is a safe place for them. We are not talking of just the reputation of your business – lives are at stake.
Getting Ready to Reopen Your Distribution Hub? Go Over the Plans Once Again!
During these difficult times, the Logistic Packaging team has continually advised customers who are looking for ways to keep their supply chain running. We learned on the go, just like everybody else. And what we learned is that it is always useful to go over your plans and identify hidden vulnerabilities.
One thing that you should keep in mind that your previous best practices for safety in handling and storing products may no longer be adequate. You need to look over every single aspect, from the moment your employees walk in the distribution hub in the morning, and until the end of their shift. This involves:
- Personal hygiene
- Protocols for acceptance/ delivery of products
- Storage conditions
- Packaging materials
- Transportation arrangements.
A Helpful Checklist to Help You Reopen Your Distribution Hub Safely
We based the following best practices on what we actually do in our own production facilities and what our customers are doing, as well.
1. Readjust Operations to Meet the Highest Safety Standards
Social distancing and increased personal hygiene are the two basic rules everyone must follow to stay safe and protect others. And companies must make sure that they follow these rules, as well, and protect their employees and customers.
Some changes that may be required before you reopen your warehouse are:
- Arranging new shifts, so that fewer employees spend time in the same closed space at the same time
- Making available face masks and hand sanitizers
- Identifying positions where employees can continue to work from home
- Reevaluate your employees’ skills and reassign roles appropriately.
2. Make Sure that Packaging Materials Are Properly Sanitized
Reusable plastic packaging materials have many important benefits for businesses. Right now, we will focus on a key benefit for the purposes of this article: the ability to clean and sanitize these packages quickly and efficiently.
Plastic pallets, plastic containers and plastic distribution boxes can be cleaned in industrial washing equipment using a short washing cycle. When they are returned for a new usage cycle, they are clean and safe to handle and ship products in them. These packages are very reliable and have a clean, professional look that inspires confidence. Thus, opting for returnable plastic packaging solutions is one of the best ways to convince your B2B clients that your products are safe.
3. Use Technology to Minimize Human Contact
When we refer to technology in this context, we consider all the tools, machines, software and equipment you can use in business. From video conference applications to warehouse vehicles and devices to handle and load merchandize, every type of technology is helpful.
It ensures that the work is done without involving too much human contact and manual labor. For example, our team at Logistic Packaging is using Skype video calls with our clients and business partners, as well as between everyday communications between each other.
4. Reconsider Delivery Protocols
How does your merchandize reach customers? Does it move between several warehouses and distribution hubs to reach retail stores? Do you need occasionally to hire extra shipping capabilities to keep goods on the move?
Now it is time to revaluate your delivery protocols and make things simpler. Choose a transportation partner capable of:
- Offering you the shortest delivery route
- Guaranteeing a sufficient trailer capacity to meet your needs
- Assuring you that they apply the highest health and safety standards in handling your products.
5. Think Big, but Act Small
Last but not least, take small steps in reopening your business. Adjust your delivery capacity to current demand, but have plans in place for the near future, when you may need to operate at full capacity.
We have no precedent for the current situation and this is why caution is the best policy for any business at the present.