Adjusting to ‘pre-new normal’

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I read a white paper* recently that spoke of a ‘pre-new normal’ and I think it summarises perfectly where we’re at currently.

It claimed businesses and their supply chains won’t transition to the ‘new normal’ immediately as its shape is not yet clear, the outlines are there, but not the detail. 

It spoke of how, in this interim pre-new normal phase, resilience, demand, transportation, workplace operation practices and other warehousing-related topics would become critical issues. And we’re certainly seeing evidence of that as distribution centres (DCs) and warehouses juggle to meet increased demand in online shopping with an ailing workforce and legacy technology.

A survey† in April revealed that 59% of warehouse operators were ill or in quarantine, often necessitating agency staff to be brought in. And while we probably don’t have that level of infection right now, there are still pockets of it across the country with news every week of food processing plants and DCs facing shut downs and quarantine.

Meeting Covid-19 health and safety changes is no small undertaking but the latest mobile devices and asset software like Operational Intelligence from Honeywell can help with this quest. For example, to keep an eye on social distancing, organisations can monitor the proximity between devices and log alerts if one device-enabled worker gets too close to another. Similarly, devices can be configured to alert users hourly, daily or in between shifts to get the device cleaned. Such innovation keeps mobile-equipped warehouse and DC workers productive while also ensuring they comply with site health and safety requirements. 

And these guys certainly are being kept busy with online shopping continuing to grow. Indeed the ONS figures showed one third of May’s shopping transactions were online. Even B2B online purchasing is up 24%1 in the last year. And business procurers are no more patient than consumers when it comes to delivery with 39%1 of B2B buyers wanting faster delivery. By next year, 78%2 of logistics providers will be expected to offer same day delivery.

Fulfilling such fast delivery expectations requires minimal downtime. But outdated hardware platforms and Windows mobile operating systems were not designed for the e-commerce and workforce demands of today’s warehouses and DCs.  

Switching to Android devices would mean faster inventory turns and order fulfilment, higher picking and inventorying accuracy, quicker product returns and faster training and adoption. Speeding up training is especially useful in this Covid-19 climate where enabling temporary workers quickly is vital to productivity.

Now, more than ever, supply chains need to be more flexible and more resilient. Logistics operators must look at both their processes and technology and consider the cost of not upgrading, especially as we head towards peak times like Black Friday and Christmas. 

We’re all having to adjust to a new normal and in many situations, technology could be the enabler. Something else in the white paper* resonated with me: “Businesses and industries that had resisted change suddenly found themselves embracing it,” and I couldn’t agree more.

We’ve a step to go before we know how much the new normal differs from the world as we knew it so let’s look on this as the ‘pre-new normal’ and start adjustments now.


* Source: DHL’s Post-Coronavirus supply chain recovery

† Study by WMG, University of Warwick and Blue Yonder

1 Source: WTC The B2B Future Shopper 2020

2 Source: The Future of Fulfilment Vision Study, Zebra Technologies 2018


Richard Gilliard

Renovotec is the UK’s largest independent rugged hardware and maintenance, software and services company. Managing Director Richard Gilliard has helped lead the organisation for over 25 years, supporting customers across many sectors including warehousing and distribution, transport and logistics, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, seaports and field mobility. Richard's drive is to enable firms through…

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