Are Smaller Facilities the Future of Warehousing?

Are Smaller Facilities the Future of Warehousing?
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There’s a growing trend for warehouse facilities that come under the heading of “small boxes”. Are the things we buy getting smaller? Or is it that we’re buying them differently, leading to changes in demand for warehouse space?

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Hazards of Larger Warehouses

Larger warehouses certainly have their hazards. The Daily Mail has a spectacular CCTV clip of a warehouse in which a forklift driver clips the corner of a pallet rack. The rack falls onto the adjacent rack – and this process continues like dominoes, until the entire large warehouse and its racking have been destroyed and are in a heap on the floor. Luckily, the forklift operator was not injured.

Getting Closer to the Urban Customer

One of the drivers of the trend towards smaller warehouse spaces is that many companies want to be where their customers are – in the urban centres. That means using buildings with a smaller footprint. As a result, ceilings are also getting lower, which leads to medium-height pallet racking rather than the 30-feet monsters we’ve been seeing.

The “Last Mile” Delivery Problem

With urban deliveries, it’s the last mile that is the problem. Customers are demanding faster delivery times and won’t wait for a company to assemble a full load for a large delivery truck. However, supply companies don’t want to run fleets of delivery vehicles that will run half empty most of the time but won’t be able to cope with the load at peak times such as Black Friday and Christmas.

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They want a flexible on-demand delivery service for that last mile. In the US, logistics managers are looking at partnerships with Uber-type on-demand delivery services that can provide fast access into urban areas.

When it comes to industrial shelving Ireland, companies such as are well placed to take advantage of these new trends. It has a “mixed economy” of different sizes of warehousing space, so the new demands for smaller units can be met fairly easily.

As robotics and automation costs come down, it’s feasible and cost-effective to introduce them into much smaller warehousing facilities. You don’t need to be Amazon operating out of an huge warehouse to take advantage of robotic pickers driven by an AI for logistics and warehousing systems. So the trend for smaller warehouses definitely looks set to continue.


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