Warehouse automation – how to prepare for 2021 during the pandemic

As COVID-19 restrictions continue together with the current social distancing guidelines, the warehouse and distribution industry faces a challenging future. The ongoing pandemic is making preparations for 2021 a difficult and demanding task. This situation has been exacerbated by squeezed budgets, increased throughputs and ever more stringent compliance requirements.

There are, however, effective steps that you can take now to make short term improvements which will help maintain productivity levels whilst protecting the safety of your staff. These can be achieved at low cost with a longer view – to 2021 and beyond, in mind.


Adjusting to a new way of working – protecting your people

Making one-way traffic systems and 1m + or 2m walkways to guarantee social distancing has made the warehouse a very different working environment. Where space was once at a premium and every inch counted, now there are less workers in larger areas.

The advice from AMH Material Handling, specialists in the warehouse automation and ecommerce fulfilment arena, is to start with the basics of safeguarding the health and safety of staff, the mainstay of your business. The online increase in sales due to lack of consumer confidence to shop on the high street has resulted in higher volumes of orders for staff to process.

By reducing the number of colleagues in the receiving area together with those picking in the aisles, and by placing packing desks further apart, the risk of infection is minimised. Efficiency may be compromised, but staff protection is the prime driver.

To continue to achieve desired throughput it may also be necessary to increase operational hours. Whilst initially this may have a negative impact, it will allow staff to feel safer and potentially help to drive up individual performances.


Consider the advantages of automation

Automation is a key factor to maintaining safe distancing guidelines which show no sign of being lifted and have recently been increased once more. It seems more and more unlikely that normal close working conditions will be resumed any time in the near future. Automated, high throughput packing machines offer an effective solution. They can, at a stroke, solve many social distancing and staff shortage dilemmas in the warehouse, especially during peak sales periods.

Now is the perfect time to consider the advantages of introducing automation in your warehouse for 2021; increased reliability and accuracy, and reduced reliance on manual labour will all help towards less stress for all concerned. Naturally, it will save time if you consult the experts at an early stage. Their experience and industry knowledge will help design the best solution for your particular project.

With familiarity and understanding across a wide range of industries including the ecommerce, retail, fashion and automotive sectors, AMH Material Handling works closely with clients to deliver cost effective automation solutions.


Developing a futureproofed maintenance and support structure

Providing a high level of customer support during the last few months has been a challenge, with the top priority of ensuring the health and safety of both AMH staff and its customers. Clients with a strong ecommerce presence saw significant uplifts in throughput with some requiring urgent support. Others utilised enforced downtime to get much needed maintenance work completed.

In these uncertain times it is more important than ever to have an effective maintenance and support structure in place. This needs to be set up to work consistently and effectively so as to help maximise the availability, as well as prolong the life, of all the machinery in the facility.

In the event of a reduction in workforce, it’s essential that automated systems are in good working order. Having a support structure which has been established in advance, using a professional company that is well-funded and trustworthy will pay dividends when it is most needed.


Prepare now for 2021

So far 2020 has put extreme demands on the warehouse and distribution industry. Those businesses that have survived the storm have clearly demonstrated their ability to adapt to the rapidly changing situation.

To continue to be successful in 2021 will require strategic planning and effective risk assessment. Whilst the health and safety of your people remains the highest priority, it is also essential that your operation runs smoothly and efficiently throughout the challenging times to come. Now is the time to take action to ensure not only that your business endures, but also that it continues to prosper in the months and years ahead.

Contact AMH Material Handling on 0121 550 4342 or email sales@amhmaterialhandling.com to discuss your unique warehouse challenges for 2021.