Social Distancing in the Warehouse With WMS

Can warehouse operatives practice social distancing in the warehouse?

In these current times, it is in all our interests to continue to adapt our behaviours and ways of working to keep the spread of coronavirus. We anticipate social distancing measures will be required for several months to come; therefore, most organisations have been adopting social distancing in the workplace in a number of ways.

Yet as the majority of people are being asked to work from home and practice social distancing, what are warehouse workers supposed to do? They still have to go onsite every day to ensure we get the essential products we need to survive.

How can they stay safe at work and avoid getting too close to their colleagues who might also be picking from the same locations?

It is clearly a big issue, with some major retailers either closing their operations or having to address the concerns of workers worried about social distancing safety. Apart from closing up altogether or spraying the warehouse with alcohol-based agents to try and destroy the Coronavirus, what other options are there? Firstly, all operatives should be wearing disposable gloves as a minimum, since it is known that the virus can survive on surfaces for extended periods. Technology can also help, by supporting the introduction of flexible picking strategies and minimising the level of contact required to process orders.

Warehouses with a warehouse management system (WMS) are in a very good position to support effective social distancing measures and to help keep warehouse operatives as safe as possible during the times. 

Warehouse Inductions

When inducting new employees into a warehousing operation, clear operational guidelines should be set down from day one. This should extend beyond being issued with PPE (personal protective equipment) such as protective footwear, masks, gloves and high viability clothing alongside the fire exits being pointed out!

clear operational guidelines should be set down from day one.

It is sensible for employers to spend time documenting the induction process alongside employees signing off formally to say they have been through the relevant training. Warehouse operatives clearly knowing what their roles are and working within those guidelines should protect all parties keeping everyone safe while at work.

Picking Goods

One strategy that a warehouse using a WMS can adopt is to introduce zone picking.

Zone picking keeps operatives safer because it introduces a set structure to the areas where a particular person can work. Rather than having an operative travel across the whole warehouse to pick their orders, they are assigned to work within certain locations only. If an operative stays in a confined area, they automatically practice social distancing and remain efficient – more efficient even than they might usually, because the time spent traveling between picks is kept to a minimum.

Then, once orders are picked from their designated locations, they can be transferred to a central marshalling area for consolidation. By organising operatives to be well spaced along a marshalling line, or expanding the number of marshalling areas, warehouse management can maintain or even exceed the 2 metre guidelines of the social distancing rules. Here the stock items picked can be sorted into individual orders and sent off for dispatch. 

Voice Technology & Worker Safety

Firstly, what is voice picking?

Voice picking helps you improve the processes in your warehouse. It is also known as pick by voice or voice-directed picking. This speeds up the picking process and reduces errors which helps you generate cost savings and improve customer satisfaction. Whilst it’s usually used in the warehouse, voice can also be used in other environments and processes, such as cross-docking, pick and pack, receiving, put-away and cycle counting. See voice picking at work in this video.

The reasons people use voice in their daily lives has major impacts on the warehouse space, such as:

  • It’s convenient
  • It’s simple to use
  • It’s faster than typing

Other technologies that integrate with an existing WMS can support even safer warehouse working and help provide the greater throughput efficiency needed for increased consumer demand. Voice picking allows warehouse operatives to pick stock hands free within a designated zone, minimising the contact between picks whilst at the same time, reducing the time to pick orders. In most warehouses using voice technology, it is standard best practice for operatives to be issued their own personal headset but share the processing device.

This again improves the safety for workers as processors can be sanitised in between shifts and there is no risk of equipment spreading the Coronavirus. When fulfilling bulk orders, process safety becomes even tighter as palletised stock can be transported by FLT and requires no direct handling.

Other technologies that integrate with an existing WMS can support even safer warehouse working and help provide the greater throughput efficiency needed for increased consumer demand. Voice picking allows warehouse operatives to pick stock hands free within a designated zone, minimising the contact between picks whilst at the same time, reducing the time to pick orders. In most warehouses using voice technology, it is standard best practice for operatives to be issued their own personal headset but share the processing device. This again improves the safety for workers as processors can be sanitised in between shifts and there is no risk of equipment spreading the Coronavirus. When fulfilling bulk orders, process safety becomes even tighter as palletised stock can be transported by FLT and requires no direct handling.

In Summary

It is ironic that perhaps the more sophisticated the warehouse and the more automation that has been employed, the more difficult it can be for warehouse management to implement social distancing policies.

Warehouses with a warehouse management system (WMS) are in a very good position to support effective social distancing measures and to help keep warehouse operatives as safe as possible during the times.  By making some adjustments a warehouse management system can ensure their workers can stay as safe as possible during the COVID-19 crisis.

About us:

Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.

Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.

ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.

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