DC Operations In The Time Of COVID-19

For this month’s DC News Roundup, we’re doing something a little different. We usually include a few timely articles and useful information about current supply chain and distribution-related topics, but all the news this month is about coronavirus. That’s natural. In the span of a month we have gone from business as usual to mandatory work from home and social distancing.

First and foremost, we hope you, your families and your communities are staying safe and well. And we hope that your businesses are successfully adapting to this new, temporary normal, whatever that may be in your circumstances.

Many of our customers’ DCs are facing unprecedented demand for food, medical supplies and other vital necessities. Some of you are facing similar demands, but others are facing a very different reality as business activity has ground to a near standstill in many parts of the world. Whatever side you sit on, there are numerous ways DCs and supply chains are adapting. We’ve collected a small selection of articles on that subject, below.

We’re also launching a kind of virtual trade show based on our recent participation in the MODEX event organized by the US-based Material Handling Industry association (MHI). For those of you who missed MODEX, we will be offering replays of our two presentations and recording a series of demos and video tutorials building on the interactive activities in our booth. First up, you can watch a replay of our on-floor seminar on “Next Generation Analytics For Warehouses and DCs.” The replay is located at the bottom of this post.

Stay Safe!

The Lucas Team

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Grocery and Medical DCs Ramp Up

Food, grocery and medical distributors are taking all necessary measures to keep stores and hospitals stocked. Many are adding shifts, hiring temps, and running 24/7 to meet surging demand. Grocers and pharmacies are adding hundreds of thousands of workers in stores and distribution centers. On the other side, the pandemic has shut down on-premise dining in many restaurants, leaving excess capacity among foodservice distributors.

To meet the challenge, the International Foodservice Distributors Association and the Food Industry Association are stepping in to funnel excess foodservice inventory and distribution resources to grocery stores. Grocers will receive help in inventory, transportation and warehouse space.

In response to the spike in medical supplies, companies like SEKO logistics are looking for extra space in warehouses that could be used to stage medical devices, hospital beds, masks and other necessary supplies in order to quickly respond to orders. Manufacturers like Clorox and GoJo are also taking steps to prioritize and accelerate shipments to hospitals and other healthcare providers.

Retail and Ecom Adaptations

While grocery stores and pharmacies have seen unprecedented demand, non-grocery retailers are facing a different reality. Ecommerce is still a fraction of most traditional retailer’s sales, and overall demand for non-essential goods has cratered in the uncertain economic environment. Nevertheless, a recent study shows a 1200 percent increase in online shopping account registrations since the pandemic began.

Some ecom only companies are seeing sharp increases in their business, leading to new hiring. For example, Amazon announced they would be hiring an additional 100,000 employees, both full and part-time, and they will be increasing wages by $2 per hour until the end of April. Likewise, Kroger is actively partnering with foodservice distributors, and hotel and hospitality companies to bring on-board workers who have been furloughed or laid off.

Worker Health, Safety and Benefits

For the DCs ramping up by hiring temporary warehouse workers and adding shifts, there are other challenges, including keeping workers safe and addressing child care needs while kids are out of school.  They are taking steps to socially distance workers within the DC and increasing cleaning in high traffic areas, and adding new benefits. For example, CVS Pharmacy, which is adding staff in its pharmacies and DCs, is awarding bonuses, working with providers to offer childcare, and offering additional paid time off for those who face quarantine or become ill. Thirty five grocers and grocery distribution companies have announced employee bonuses and new store and DC policies designed to enhance employee safety and provide additional leave, among other operational changes.

U.S. delivery companies are also beginning to limit in-home deliveries in order to keep employees safe. SEKO Logistics has been calling every in-home delivery customer to let them know their order may be delayed, rescheduled or the package can be left on the porch. Drivers have the ability to decline entering a home if they feel they will be at risk.

Truck and delivery drivers are vital to make sure the supply of medicine, food and other essential goods are being delivered to both retail stores and the end consumers.

Next Generation Analytics For Warehouse Operations

Warehouses and DCs can leverage big data analytics and machine learning to improve planning and operations. Watch this short seminar to learn the challenges of capturing and leveraging operational data to gain real-time insights into operations over time and across networks of DCs. Also learn new approaches to apply machine learning technologies to reduce the time and costs for modeling warehouse operations for critical tasks like workforce planning and inventory optimization.


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