Opportunities From 2020 in Production Facilities - Columbia/Okura

Production Facility Opportunities

Prepare your business for future opportunities with a business plan that will help you navigate post-pandemic challenges and position you for success through 2021.

Last year we were forced to quickly adjust how we exist during a pandemic, bringing considerable changes to our lives and businesses, including our supply chains. With the new year in full swing, now is time to prepare your business for future challenges and opportunities in what will be the new, post-pandemic years to come.

As you look at your business’s strategic and operational plan for 2021, be sure to ask the critical questions related to your distribution centers and production facilities. Having a plan will help you feel prepared and allow you to adjust more easily to future external factors that can often be unpredictable.


The importance of a flexible workforce has never been greater than it was through 2020. Volume fluctuations and peak period production tested all manufacturers and distributor supply chains, but remaining consistent in delivery was vital to maintaining a lead on competitors and being a reliable supplier to your customers.

Throughout the year, labor-intensive jobs became harder to staff. Due to health and safety concerns, many were unable to go into shared spaces, and therefore labor has become more scarce, driving up wages. Was your workforce able to adjust and remain flexible enough to maintain operations and delivery for your customers? Could further automation of your facility provide a more consistent, safe, and flexible business model for the future?

Facility and Technology

Changes in workplace occupancy numbers and increased e-commerce has dramatically shifted what efficient and optimal facility layouts are. E-commerce has shifted the production lines, changing how items are being picked, packaged, and placed ready for delivery.

Layout changes in production facilities can help ease the shifts, although sometimes different equipment might be necessary. Some changes that have allowed suppliers to shift production include adding cobots into their facilities, such as the miniPALĀ®, which is less of an investment than traditional automation, while offering optimal space utilization if your product weighs less than 20lbs.

Another option is to choose an experienced and trusted integration team to solve space utilization challenges, which may be the best way to manage adjustments to your business’s production and distribution centers. Or, if you already automate, changing out an end effector on an existing robot can easily adjust it for new packaging and changing palletizing needs. 

Future Planning

Automating manufacturing facilities and distribution centers are an investment for the future. Luckily, with the advances made over the past decade, the initial setup costs have decreased, improving the ROI.

Many businesses will not have the capabilities to solve complex challenges in-house, but working with a trusted team like Columbia/Okura could help your business make better and more informed decisions that will set you up for success through 2021 and beyond.