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Optimising your distribution centre post COVID-19

distribution centre

Covid-19 has changed the world as we know it. Millions of us had a sudden need to work remotely and minimise social contact, avoiding physical retail where at all possible. Overnight, this led to a massive impact on internet retailers everywhere, with demand rocketing through the roof.

Almost 12 months down the line and ecommerce sales show no sign of slowing down. In fact, it’s predicted that online sales will account for 22% of global retail sales by 2023. (1)

So, if you’re an online retailer, how should you be adapting your distribution centre to cope with life post-COVID?

Advancing worker safety standards

Complying with local social distancing regulations will already be part of the day to day for many of you. However, to future-proof your distribution centre, you will need to contend with new rules for worker safety longer term to prevent employees from spreading the virus as well as protecting their wellbeing.

Measures that seemed temporary, like sanitising stations, will now need to become permanent fixtures. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to consider reconfiguring workflows, to minimise social contact. This could include having packing areas facing one direction and creating new processes for inbound and outbound goods. Depending on your set up, you may also want to consider offering fresh PPE at all packing stations.

Spacing out packing lines & individualising workstations

The long-term goal of any packing line configuration is to ensure staff can work safely and efficiently. Spacing out your packing lines to provide increased protection against transmission will protect workers. Where this isn’t possible, you should already have barriers in place as a safeguard.

Traditionally, many distribution centres feature dense packing areas with lots of people in one place. Since this isn’t feasible anymore, assigning individual members of staff their own packing bench can be another safety measure you may want to implement. With only one person touching the packing bench and materials, optimal social distancing can be maintained. Solutions for individualising pack benches can include tabletop machinery to deliver consumables like void fill or tape.

Ergonomically designed packing areas will be key, as in many situations you will be trying to do more with less equipment and staff.

Investing in automation and technology

Packaging automation has many benefits. In the context of the pandemic, it can help you significantly reduce the need for physical contact between staff. You’d also be able to increase efficiency, which we’ve already identified will be a challenge when you’re faced with packing areas that have had to be modified for social distancing.

During high volume peaks, automation technology can be applied to make sure throughput isn’t compromised and ensures you keep labour costs under control.

While initial investment in automation can seem costly, it can actually provide a return sooner than you may think and save you money long term. Click here to learn more.

Reconfiguring or redeploying existing solutions for efficiency

Continually improving and adapting your distribution centre will be key to delivering efficiency. As mentioned, ergonomics will play a big part in driving productivity.

Reconfiguring workstations to help reduce fatigue and straining repetitive motions will maximise efficiency. For example, you could keep all materials at no more than shoulder height. You could also redeploy one or two specific staff to replenish consumable for all other benches, as the consumable materials themselves are a lower-risk touchpoint.

Another solution that can help optimise productivity is retrofitting integrated overhead delivery systems for material like void fill. This would be particularly useful if you have centralised workstations that are separated with dividers.


For support with optimising your distribution centre, book a virtual appointment with our team by emailing