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CONSTRUCTION & BIM


THE SHARPEST TOOL IN THE ‘MEGA-SHED’


State-of-the-art stock inventory systems, warehouse software and even autonomous


machinery are all combining to help retailers more effectively manage their end-to-end supply chains. But, as Paul Gouland, Marketing Director at Clugston Group explains, modern distribution cannot operate without smarter, automated and more efficient warehouse facilities.


E-commerce has changed the way people shop. In fact, such is the impact of online shopping that sales rose by 15.3% over the past year and now make up a record high of 18.2% of all retail sales, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with one in every five pounds spent in UK shops now done so online.


This ever-growing popularity and success of e-commerce has changed the distribution sector exponentially and created a level of complexity never before seen in the supply chain. Changing customer expectations, especially across the retail sector, mean today’s distribution centres and warehouse centres are now required to deliver unprecedented levels of speed, flexibility and efficiency.


“The fast-paced environments often necessitate automated warehouse


solutions that speed up the picking and packing processes and reduce the likelihood of human error.”


The traditional warehouse model is now largely incapable of supporting the unpredictable shopping habits of many customers. Gone are the days when large quantities of products were picked, packed and shipped to retail stores to be placed on shelves. In the current retail landscape single items are increasingly being shipped in small quantities to customers, leading to a dramatic shift in warehouse and distribution centres.


With a purchase just a click away for many shoppers, warehouse and distribution centres have undergone a major transformation, with a new wave of huge warehouse or ‘mega-sheds’ being introduced across the UK and Europe – each of which must be constructed to exacting standards to meet the demands of a challenging sector – to meet growing customer demand.


On the surface today’s warehouses and distribution centres may appear the same as in previous decades – apart from a significant expansion in square meterage – however behind the scenes technology is seeing such facilities undergo a fundamental shift towards smarter, automated and more efficient warehouses.


28 | TOMORROW’S FM


A new age of warehouses Today’s agile retail distribution model is very much reflected in the warehouse facilities in which products are stored and shipped. To meet this changing demand, modern warehouses are not only becoming bigger, taller and wider, but also smarter, and more flexible than ever before. As a result, retailers are looking beyond a “standard box” design.


Larger bays and more racking systems have become a staple of the modern warehouse as companies strive for greater storage space for growing product stocks. The fast-paced environments often necessitate automated warehouse solutions that speed up the picking and packing processes and reduce the likelihood of human error.


What this means is, facilities managers are not only on the hunt for the most energy efficient and cost-effective warehouse solutions available, but also seeking high quality and safe working environments for employees, as well as facilities that can ensure optimum operational efficiency at all times.


Due to the varied nature of products stored in such facilities, as well as the surplus of advanced equipment often in place, warehouse operators and facilities managers must consider a number of factors when it comes to the safe storage of goods – none more so than warehouse design.


Designing such facilities management (FM) needs into warehouse projects is essential. From arranging the warehouse layout to fit the nature of the inventory, to ensuring the aisle widths are suitable for vehicles such as forklift trucks to streamline operations and selecting the perfect lighting, every aspect of the design should be considered from the outset of any project.


Meeting the demands of modern warehouses To meet these demands, leading construction companies are now utilising BIM (Building Information Modelling) – an intelligent 3D model-based process – to model sophisticated warehouse designs to ensure businesses are getting all the space they need for stock, equipment and employees.


When designing a bespoke warehouse, a working knowledge of the systems, processes and technology the customer plans to use is required. Warehouse and distribution centre layouts need to be completed to an


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