CognitOps Insights

Managing Complex Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created conflicting challenges in managing a complex DC operation. Many eCommerce fulfillment centers are still facing increased volume with challenged attendance, and the busy season on the way. At the same time, leaders are driven to protect the health of their teams.

Historic demand is significantly increasing the number of workers in the distribution center, leading to increasingly complex operations. Efficiently managing this influx of workers is hard. While designing a facility with pre-planned congestion constraints is standard practice, actively managing congestion, dynamically assigning workers across zones, and keeping those team members utilized while at the same time operating is far more critical.

We believe this increase in the front-line workforce may be sustained based on a long-term acceleration in the shift to eCommerce.  eCommerce was 15% of retail sales in 2019, and forecasts have predicted it reaching 39% in 2030. The current environment is likely to pull the transition forward, and other sectors, including grocery and CPG, will also transition to complex eCommerce operations.

While fulfillment centers are providing essential services to society, keeping our houses stocked with food, and our hospitals supplied, responsible operations are building strategies on the fly to support the safety and health of these (now larger) teams by:

  • Checking for active symptoms upon entering the facility
  • Providing hazard pay, personal protective equipment, and other support services
  • Buying additional tools, supplies, and materials to limit the amount of sharing
  • Actively excusing those team members with compromised immune systems
  • Building a team structure and isolating teams through staggered shifts, alternating attendance, or distancing the teams within the operations
  • Implementing protocols to keep team members from moving from department to department to enable contact tracing

With so many challenges, it’s inspirational to see the supply chain, operations, and engineering community provide the backbone of support to our families and first responders in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic.

Right now, CognitOps is supporting its clients through these challenges by helping facility operators with real-time optimization of labor, equipment, and flow — providing coaching and recommendations. As the workforce grows, this support will be essential. We are also working with our clients in enabling workforce safety by:

  1. Supporting sub-team structures to limit congestion while staffing areas with the right number of people
  2. Managing incredibly volatile order flow
  3. Sustaining continuous business operations through unpredictable attendance levels

If your business is facing these same challenges, but you don’t have enough time or budget to empower your facilities to adapt, then we can immediately help you. You don’t need to wait or feel locked into your infrastructure. We’re here to help, serve, and give you the resiliency your operation needs. Get in touch here.