The designs and efficiencies of industrial property has changed substantially over the years and continues to do so. Warehouses and factories have always been built with the user in mind and as technology and the users needs have changed, so has the design and construction.
Coverage and yard area
In newly established industrial areas, coverage is around 50%. Effectively only allowing half of the site to be built on which forces developers to maximise the bulk that they have. A benefit of these new designs is the availability of yard area for large truck articulation. It’s not uncommon for large warehouses to have 30 or 40m deep yards enabling interlinks to turn easily. This is an advantage for todays logistics operations as they often have large fleets of trucks, or suppliers that deliver to their premises, enabling easy access, drop off and exit.
Although coverage is limited, developers are making use of increased roof heights. Minimum eave heights have increased substantially from the 4, 5 or 6m heights of yesteryear to 15m and even 18 m now. This enables users to rack higher and maximise the use of floor space. These increased eave heights also benefit the use of mezzanine levels as they too have improved height and storage capacity.
With the increased use of racking comes the importance of flooring. Flooring in modern warehouses needs to support heavy loads and be extremely flat and level in order to ensure safety and efficiency. Floors need to support both static and dynamic loads. The downward force of the pillars and the racking units create a static load and are concentrated over a very small surface area but can cover the majority of the warehouse floor. Dynamic loads are created by handling devices moving between the aisles of racking. Their load varies depending on the type of device, ranging from forklifts to stacker cranes. In these types of environments with narrow aisles it is extremely important that the floor is not only able to withstand the load but is also extremely level and flat. Majority of floors in modern warehousing developments today have an FM2 floor rating in terms of flatness and levelness.
Another important consideration for larger warehouses (2 500m² +) is sprinkler system installation. The Automatic Sprinkler Inspection Bureau (ASIB) currently regulates the rules that govern sprinkler installations for fire prevention and protection in South Africa, which include extended-coverage sprinkler systems and early-suppression fast-response (ESFR) systems. An additional option available is in-rack sprinklers. Roof mounted sprinklers can’t maintain fires found on the lower racks of pallets whereas in rack can attend to fires directly below them more easily. Older sprinkler systems were commonly fed by the municipal water supply but modern installations are fed from pumps and tanks on site in order to ensure the correct water pressure required.
Loading access has also been made as easy and efficient as possible. Modern day warehouses tend to use sectional panel doors as opposed to roller shutter doors. These doors fit into distinct sections and move within tracks. Sectional doors can also feature clear window panels to allow for visibility. The number of doors has also increased and it’s not uncommon for a warehouse to have 50 plus doors for access. More and more warehouses are now using a combination of docked doors as well as on grade. Docked doors are raised and vehicles can back right up to the dock creating a flush access to the truck so goods can be easily moved from the truck into the warehouse. Dock levellers are also commonly found to adjust the height of the dock to the height of the truck. All of these make for easier access and improved flow.
Energy and Lighting
The increased cost of electrical supply coupled with lack of availability has resulted in the need for operations to be more energy efficient. Modern warehouses offer improved natural lighting by using clear chromadek sheeting in sections of the roof allowing natural sunlight to enter the property and reduce the need of electrical lighting for illumination. The better the natural lighting, the lower the requirement for additional lighting. Older warehouses and factories use mercury vapour down lighting for lighting whereas modern warehouses makes use of LED lighting. Mercury vapor lamps can take up to 10 minutes to warm up, which means switching the lights on 10 minutes before you actually need to use them. This is also a wasted cost if you consider the cost of 10 minutes a day for a year. Although replacement of mercury vapor globes is less than LED, the price of LED in continuously decreasing as technology improves. LED lights are also more resistant to damage considering mercury vapor globes are predominantly made of glass. In terms of life expectancy, although mercury vapor globes can last up to 25 000 hours, LED can last from 50 000 up to 100 000 hours before they need to be replaced. LED globes also do not emit any gases or radiation, which mercury vapor do, nor do they make any buzzing or humming sounds like their counterparts are notorious for doing. Apart from a cost point of view lighting is also an integral part in health and safety considering that warehouse staff need to be able to see clearly and manoeuvre vehicles around safely. Good lighting improves concentration and in turn leads to increased productivity.
Safety and Security
Another important factor is the need for security. There are advantages to being located within a park or access controlled area because of the nature and type of product certain companies are dealing with. Even the basic structure of the facility can have an impact, whether or not the external structure is pure steel cladding or bricked to a certain height, to burglar proofing, security gates, alarms and sensors (both internal and external), fencing and boundary walls. Guard house and guarding services are becoming more and more of a necessity. Modern facilities also offer CCTV surveillance and bio metrics.
With an ever-increasing focus on the ability to store, distribute, and transport goods efficiently there is also a critical move towards automation in order to keep up with this demand. The onset of robotics means that architects are starting to design warehousing that can accommodate robotics in the future by taking into consideration what infrastructure they may require. There is also anticipation of transporting goods via drones and driverless cars/trucks, these are all changes in technology that new facilities will need to take into consideration.
In summary, if your operations needs are basic and your margins are minimal then it may well serve your interests to look for an older design property that is in an older industrial area where rentals and purchase prices are lower, but still offer a certain level of practicality. Especially if your operation is more manufacturing focused and less storage focused where availability of high power and cranes are more of a priority. Operations that are more focused on logistics and distribution who need to maximise space and require height, quality flooring, good access and sprinkler systems, might want to look at newer, more modern spec facilities. Either way we can assist in sourcing the correct warehouse or factory to meet your requirements.