Warehousing Wednesday: How Warehousing Has Changed During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended typical warehousing operations across the U.S. — shifting to bulkier inventories in response to a thoroughly disrupted global supply chain.
While stories about vessel queues off the west coast and shuttered Chinese factories have grabbed big headlines, warehousing and e-commerce have endured their own turmoil in the background.
We know that a historic demand for consumer goods combined with quarantine shutdowns and labor shortages has made the transportation sector a mess of uncertainty and congestion. To put it simply, it’s hard to know when a shipment will arrive and what it will cost to get it there.
These factors have caused shifts in both demand and operations throughout warehousing. From ditching lean inventories in favor of proactive stockpiling to moving away from just-in-time assembly practices, the pandemic has altered many of the industry’s fundamentals.
Just-in-Time Manufacturing Receding as Components Stocking Surges
U.S. manufacturers have shied away from just-in-time operations. For decades, just-in-time manufacturing has been the standard for assembly plants in all kinds of industries. But that is quickly changing as pandemic-era supply chain disruptions make it more and more difficult to reliably secure components in sync with assembly line needs.
Without predictable, precise component deliveries, lean manufacturing loses its effectiveness. Instead, manufacturers have shifted back to amassing components in bulk at warehouses.
While this has alleviated manufacturers’ dependence on just-in-time systems, it has also brought many more pallets to the doorstep of American warehouses and contributed to the industry’s capacity crunch significantly.
Retail and E-Commerce Inventories Ballooning
Similar changes are happening on the retail side.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic simultaneously stalled global logistics and spiked e-commerce demand. Consumers wanted more goods than ever delivered directly to their doors, but retailers struggled to maintain enough inventory to feed the demand.
Consequently, retailers are importing goods early and building up robust inventories at warehouses. Larger inventories mean less available space and higher prices overall for warehousing services. Plus, more workers are required to meet the labor needs for processing these inflated inventories.
Flexibility in Warehousing Key to Pandemic-Era Success
Change has come to the warehousing sector in the wake of a global pandemic. One-size-fits-all service approaches prevent the flexibility and agility needed to thrive in the current era. Finding a warehouse provider that can adjust to your needs is crucial for success in this environment.
Scarbrough Warehousing designs its services to grow with and adapt to your specific needs. Our flexible approach along with a deep well of expertise can help you set up a storage, distribution, or fulfillment plan that adapts as circumstances change. Contact us to learn more.