The impacts of COVID-19 have been felt globally and across every industry. Supply chain businesses have faced a challenging few months and we’re not out of the woods yet. Warehouse and supply chain organisations in the UK have been contending with a 129% boom in online shopping, as non-essential shops have been closed and many consumers continue to favour online grocery shopping instead of braving the supermarket queues. Consequently, supply chains have had to redefine productivity, while coping with the novel introduction of social distancing regulations in the warehouse.

Redefining productivity with warehouse tech

Implementing warehouse technology may provide the key to maximising productivity with new distancing restrictions and fewer employees. The pandemic has required a 2-metre distance to be kept between employees and has meant less staff are able to work (this could be because the warehouse can’t accommodate them all safely, or they are shielding). So, how can supply chains uphold productivity with fewer hands on deck?

Handheld, mobile devices are a key driver of productivity in the modern warehouse. While these devices aren’t new on the scene, they now have greater scope to drive productivity thanks to significant upgrades. Employees no longer have to work on clunky, ruggedised, green screen devices, but can take advantage of user-friendly interfaces and sleek designs. Not only are these devices simpler to use but they cut down training time, which makes it easier for new employees to hit the ground running when starting a new job.

Thanks to these upgrades, employees now have new ways to pick with the integration of wearable devices. Long gone are the days of consulting a print-out to see which items need to be picked, warehouse staff can now take advantage of hands-free alternatives with vision and voice-enabled picking. With these technological advances, pickers can complete their work more accurately and quickly.

Staying safe at work

By enabling more accurate picking, these bionic technologies can help supply chain businesses to continue operating effectively while they face external challenges. Consumer demand can continue to be met with fewer employees in the warehouse as productivity is maximised and with fewer errors pickers will minimise their handling of items unnecessarily. Additionally, voice and vision picking solutions can inform the wearer of the most efficient route to take around the warehouse to fulfil an order, meaning pickers can minimise their contact with others by heading directly to where they need to be.

Wearable and mobile technology will be just as advantageous as businesses head into the post-COVID ‘new normal’. With purse strings tightening across all industries, this added productivity will be welcomed by supply chain business leaders. However, warehouse employees shouldn’t worry that this shift towards automated technology may signal the end of their jobs. On the contrary, it is the seamless integration between man and machine that makes it so valuable, with machines able to increase productivity and facilitate accuracy, and employees able to bring their wealth of experience and common sense to the tasks at hand.

Nobody knows what the new normal has in store but, by implementing bionic technology such as wearable devices and voice-picking solutions, supply chain businesses can optimise their activity to help cope with the current surge in eCommerce and ensure they are ready for whatever the future may hold.

Learn more about voice-enabled picking with Ivanti Speakeasy.