When stay-at-home policies were introduced to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, warehousing and distribution services were forced to cease operations temporarily. Fortunately, quick and drastic action was taken to restart manufacturing, warehouse operations, and global distribution networks, following industry restrictions and quarantine measures.
Throughout the pandemic, warehouse fulfillment centers have played a key role in meeting consumer demands and providing logistics services worldwide. Although we are progressing toward post-COVID normality, personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing look set to remain common practices for the time being.
Despite the closure of businesses and the widespread loss of jobs, global demand for goods is reaching record levels. eCommerce opens consumers up to the global marketplace, meaning order fulfillment is essential at present. Warehouse fulfillment services are becoming increasingly important during the global pandemic.
Reduction in Overall Fulfillment Volumes
Many warehouse and distribution centers remained open to some extent throughout the pandemic. However, some can’t operate at full capacity due to restrictions and pandemic-related circumstances, meaning overall fulfillment is down on average.
Coinciding with a reduction in fulfillment volumes, there has been an increased demand for orders, particularly in the U.S. Warehouse fulfillment services are vital in meeting this order volume and delivering goods to consumers and retail stores.
Although the worldwide pandemic restrictions and the mass rollout of vaccines means that virus cases are reducing, people are still contracting COVID. A sudden outbreak of infection can force a center to close at a moment’s notice, further reducing fulfillment capacity.
Keeping Businesses Operational
Businesses are massively reliant on fulfillment services to stay operational. While eCommerce was growing rapidly outside of the pandemic, lockdowns and the closure of storefronts has caused the online marketplace to explode even further.
Unless eCommerce businesses have their own distribution and fulfillment resources, they need a dedicated service to take care of their needs. Unfortunately, some businesses have been forced to close down permanently due to the pandemic. Others are unable to operate in-store but have adapted their business models for the digital sphere, even if it’s only in the short term.
Organizations with no previous experience selling online rely on fulfillment services, logistics companies, and eCommerce experts to function effectively.
Fulfillment services that help keep businesses operational are not only enabling individual companies to stay afloat, but they are positively impacting local and global economies in the long term.
Facilitates Consumer Purchases
Similar to businesses, customers are reliant on fulfillment services and logistics companies. With limited access to physical stores, consumers are forced to order online. Although many local businesses offer “click and collect” type services, certain goods may have to travel long distances to reach customers’ doorsteps.
During a pandemic, those with underlying health conditions are often advised to stay indoors unless it’s necessary to travel. These people depend on others to live healthily. Fulfillment services facilitate consumer purchases of all types, including critical hygiene, sanitation, and medical supplies.
The pandemic certainly didn’t ignite the rise in eCommerce, but it has undoubtedly accelerated its growth. In May 2020, online spend experienced a 77% increase from the previous year. While much of this surge is circumstantial, it is suggested that consumers who shopped online instead of in-store because of COVID will continue to do so.
Warehouse fulfillment services and logistics businesses are well equipped for eCommerce, but the increased demand makes the situation challenging for them from an employment standpoint.
Keeps Employees’ Jobs
Virtually every industry has suffered due to the pandemic. While some sectors such as the tourism, textiles, food, and retail sectors are suffering due to inactivity and closures, others are overburdened. The health, agriculture, and transportation industries have had to work in overdrive while being compliant with pandemic-related restrictions.
Other fields, like the automotive industry, were hit on multiple levels. Lockdowns forced factory closures, slowing production and keeping workers at home. This led to global supply chain disruptions, which further affected profitability. Finally, the pandemic caused a drastic reduction in demand for vehicles.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the automotive factories that ceased to produce vehicles are used to make emergency life-saving equipment such as ventilators and facemasks.
Not only are warehouse fulfillment services crucial for keeping businesses operational and customers supplied with goods, but they’re also providing essential employment for their industries. Throughout the pandemic, employment rates peaked at a level not seen since 1946 in the U.S.
Before the pandemic, a research study carried out by Zebra Technologies set out to determine the biggest challenges facing the warehousing industry. They cited labor as being the biggest problem for warehouses. 60% of study participants claimed that labor recruitment, efficiency, or productivity was their most challenging task.
From warehouse managers to delivery drivers, warehouse fulfillment services have been steadily recruiting throughout the pandemic to meet demand. This helps keep the economy healthy and provides valuable income to those who became unemployed due to the pandemic.
As logistics and warehouse businesses were understaffed before the pandemic, most of the roles filled during the pandemic are likely to continue when normal life resumes, giving workers long-term stability.
Brings Long Term Benefits For Fulfillment Businesses
Warehouse fulfillment services are projected to grow at a higher rate than traditional warehouses (those that don’t support eCommerce) post-pandemic. This is not only due to increased online sales, but it also incorporates knock-on effects like the growth of individual package volume and capital expenditure investments.
With such a healthy future, the fulfillment business looks set to continue to support businesses, customers, and employees in the coming years, well beyond the pandemic.
Warehouse automation is a byproduct of the pandemic. Although most industries are transitioning toward a digital approach, the COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly accelerated digitization and automation.
Technologies such as warehouse management systems (WMS) and automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) create a more efficient organization and a safer working environment for employees.
An increased reliance on warehouse fulfillment services in such challenging circumstances allows these businesses to invest in their future, which positively benefits the consumer in the long term.
For International Shipping, Choose a Reliable Service
Order fulfillment is a crucial element of business, but it is only one aspect. When distributing on an international scale, it’s vital to work alongside a reliable shipping and 3PL company.
Asiana USA is a world-class international shipping organization that can help your business with its distribution needs, particularly during challenging times. For more information, visit our website or call us at (855) 500-1808.