Make yesterday’s warehouse the design for tomorrow
The sudden and fundamental changes in the economy in recent months are being mirrored in warehouses throughout the country. With stocks, demand and distribution patterns all in a state of flux, existing warehouse designs and layouts are almost certain to be less than ideal for the new order. Steve Lamb of warehouse and distribution property specialist sbh looks at the ways in which companies can adapt within an existing shell and possibly end up with a more efficient and cost-effective facility - both for today and tomorrow.
Any successful business decision such as warehouse design and layout is only as good as the research and planning undertaken. Given the unprecedented state of the market, forecasting even a few months ahead is tougher than it has been for decades. So the old advice of “keep it simple” applies more than ever. This means more than ever staying flexible and keeping costs under control.
The key objectives of any re-design should be one or more of the following:
• Improved space utilization – either freeing up space for other uses or even consolidation to release other facilities
• More effective order picking and handling, using labour more cost-effectively
• More efficient use of equipment, saving running costs and minimizing additional capital expenditure
• Reduced energy costs.
How and where any or all of these objectives can be achieved will result from a thorough but rapid review of business levels. Some changes may require Building Control Planning and landlord’s approval as well as a structured appraisal and an
examination of means of escape travel distances. sbh is more and more involved in
re-fitting existing warehouses as clients seek to make the best use of existing space.
Reorganizing the warehouse may only make sense if the area released can be used more productively, either for other purposes, or as an area which can be isolated without heating or lighting required.
Even today, many warehouses fail to make best use of overhead space, which costs money in terms of rent, heating and often lighting. Mezzanine floors have long provided an effective way to add valuable space by making more effective use of the building cube. An example of a rental mezzanine project includes an installation for a major high street garment retailer that provided 40,000 m² of storage within an overall 15,000m² footprint, project-managed by sbh.
While clients or logistics consultancies can advise on the many types of automated systems and other forms of storage technologies available, sbh can assist with regard to the associated operational and running costs that must be taken into consideration when looking at major capital investments. We can also identify the type of savings achievable from up-to-date mechanical and electrical systems and equipment and fire protection sprinkler systems, including liaising with insurers to ensure a cost-effective management risk solution.
With reduced levels of activity many warehouses may not need the high volume of access and delivery points. By taking some out of service, it may be possible to consolidate operations into a smaller part of the warehouse, and with less openings heat losses may be reduced.
As a leading warehouse property consultancy with more than 18 million square feet of projects completed, we can offer unrivalled experience and guidance in the sector. While professional support may be advisable for most projects, there are also many small steps that warehouse management can take at little or no cost to improve design and layout almost overnight.