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Logistics & Fulfilment

What retailers can learn from the food sector about clean warehouses

The food industry are market leaders in designing industrial facilities that meet the highest hygiene standards. However, hygiene design is generally not a priority in regular warehouse design, which is impacting operations for many organisations, especially retailers, under the current environment. 

Optimising hygiene practices is at the forefront of design when building a new food processing facility. Sanitation areas with features such as foot-operated taps to reduce touchpoints and disinfection zones are often designed into industrial food facilities to optimise and maintain hygienic and sterile environments. This enables hygienic food processing but also a cleaner environment for staff, which is currently more important than ever. 

However, for many organisations outside of the food industry, such as non-food retailers, their warehouses do not incorporate hygiene design elements, which is threatening their operations under the current circumstances. 

COVID-19 is forcing many retailers to change the way they operate. While many warehouses have had to introduce hygiene and social distancing measures to protect their staff, they are not equipped with systems in their buildings to support a highly hygienic operation. 

Additionally, many online retailers who are currently experiencing an increase in sales are having to increase the number of people in their warehouse. This is the only way these retailers can manage the increase in volumes through their current operational design. By adding more people to their operations, it puts their staff at a higher risk of a COVID-19 outbreak, potentially resulting in the closure of their operations. 

These factors will likely push retailers to improve their hygiene practices from a safety and business continuity perspective, as COVID-19 has highlighted how easily their operations could be shut down if a warehouse worker becomes ill. From this, we will start to see retailers’ industrial developments adopt the hygiene-centric design practices of industrial food facilities. 

Sanitation areas with a hand wash basin upon entering and exiting warehouses, commonly found in food processing facilities, will likely be designed into new industrial developments for retailers. Incorporating a sanitary process into the physical design of a building will help enforce safe hygiene to protect the workforce and the products. 

Optimising the hygiene practices of a warehouse will depend on the business’ operations and the movements of their workers, but like in food facilities, the hygiene design elements required by a business will need to be documented in the technical design brief of a new facility. This will ensure that the required hygienic specifications, technology fit-out and the base building performance standards are articulated in the development of a new industrial asset. 

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of creating a hygienic environment for operations and from this we will see retailers follow the footsteps of the food industry in creating hygiene-centric operations. 

Jack Moroney is a director at TM Insight.

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