How productivity is impacted by the design of a warehouse
Productivity is directly correlational to the design of a warehouse. Mehak Srivastava finds out why.
For any logistics service provider, ensuring optimal usage of the given space is a must to achieve full potential. Designing a warehouse in a manner that prevents the company from using it to its full accommodative capacity, failure to understand how technology and software could enhance operations, and turning a blind eye to sustainability are some of the common roadblocks.
Giolog is a consultancy and project management company, focussed on the turnkey delivery of logistics and industrial facilities in the entire Middle East. General manager Lionel Haggard remarks: “The minimum requirement in designing logistics facilities is to ensure that all aspects which are operationally relevant for the user of the warehouse or distribution centre are incorporated into the design of the facility from the beginning. Even for simple logistics facilities this includes the structure and quality of the floor, layouts that support smooth flows of products, up to the many details in docking solutions that may have an impact on daily operations.”
Haggard believes that if this understanding of logistics operations can be reflected in the design of a logistics facility, it will help to reduce costly changes (variations) during construction, and prevent excessive maintenance and operational costs for the user once handed over.
“Intra-logistics processes and building designs for logistics facilities are far more complex than an initial look at a general warehouse would suggest,” adds Haggard.
For projects, Giolog has established a strategic partnership with the architect Planquadrat Middle East (PQME) and ADI, a company active in cargo services, e-commerce for flowers, business development, consulting, and advisory services. ADI is also known for developing the master plan for Dubai Logistics City in Dubai, which is now being replicated by other international developers. In addition, Giolog also partners with several MEP, fire protection consultants, and material handling equipment/automation systems suppliers that can complement the scope of services depending on the client’s approach to a new logistics facility project. Giolog and its partners translate the operational and logistics requirements into facility layouts and manage the project from start to handover as one point of contact for the client. This includes land utilisation plans, logistics feasibility studies, preparing project time schedules, architectural and structural designs, finalisation of tender process, awarding the contract to suitable contractors, value engineering, construction supervision, costs, quality, and time control during the entire phase of construction and handover. For the past 10 years, Giolog has embraced the role of consulting different clients and managing a number of unique logistics facility projects in the region.
“We see two main topics that definitely affect the landscape of logistics facilities in the Middle East,” notes Haggard. “One of these is the effect of e-commerce on logistics operations and facilities; the other is the effect of deregulation, that requires importers/distributors and retailers to rethink their logistics strategy. Both topics lead to a trend away from simple standard and multi-use facilities, towards facilities that need to enable specific and tailor-made logistics operations.
“For the design and planning of a logistics facility, this has serious implications and instead of designing and planning just a space that leaves the user with a certain flexibility to incorporate logistics operations into and pre-designed “box”, now the logistics processes and flows need to be designed and planned first, thus the facility design needs to be ‘from inside out’.”
The initial design ideas of logistics facilities would also incorporate authority guidelines, on plot usage and client requirements for parking, external storage, office areas etc.
“We at Giolog, look to utilise the plot area effectively and efficiently,” continues Haggard. “So, for example, there is often a dead internal space above the docking/loading bays and we might suggest a mezzanine level that could incorporate offices or different storage options. Considering local authority and industrial zone regulations, the site proportions should allow for future extensions, mandatory small vehicle parking, sufficient space for truck movement, plot position on the road (distance from junctions, roundabouts, etc.) to ascertain building placement and allowable entrance and exit by Dubai RTA.”
Apart from following the overall national regulatory, designers have to respect and take into consideration codes that may apply specifically for certain areas, activities, and type of logistics facilities. Haggard stresses that this is one of Giolog’s areas of expertise.
“For example, in Dubai, the design has to satisfy Dubai Green Building codes, local authority regulations on plot coverage, facility usage, plot access, building height, appearance, and connection to services. Other government bodies whose codes must be adhered to are Dubai Civil Defense, Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), Roads & Transport Authority (RTA), communications providers like Etisalat and Du, as well as various free and industrial zone authority representatives, such as Smart World in Dubai South and Airport Aviation Authority.
“In addition, Giolog will follow guidelines on choosing a future-proof site, ensuring labour friendly environments, assessing weather and natural related risks and potential fire hazards.”
Civil Matrix Contracting is a Dubai-based turnkey contractor for design and construction of industrial projects in the UAE. The company’s portfolio includes warehouses, workshops, factories, labour camps, plus several technology-precedent and green building solutions.
Director Manish Kashyap highlights common infrastructure trends in his sector: “Warehouses tend to prioritise things like nearness to the airport and port, location as per a free zone or industrial area, access from main road, turning radius of containers inside the plot, total number of loading-unloading docks, etc.”
Despite the growing distance of Dubai’s logistics hubs from the main city, Kashyap believes that construction costs have not been impacted significantly.
“For the operator, [the location] depends on whether he is catering to local market or exporting. From a traffic point of view, it is better to have the logistics hub outside the city. Modern day logistics hubs are properly planned and based on modern infrastructure, making them easier to access and supply services to.”
Kashyap adds that when it comes to implementing a design, some of the challenges that emerge include height of the facility (number of pallets that can be stored) versus cost; number of containers that can load-unload simultaneously versus maximum total built up area, since more container loading numbers reduce built up area; and construction of special design parameters such as temperature-controlled warehouses.
Kashyap remarks: “Specific technology systems are studied and designed right from the design stage and are incorporated during construction, based on the plans. For example, for high logistics facilities, we have in-rack sprinkler system in the racking system, which needs to be installed during construction stage only.”
Haggard is confident that quite a number of logistics facilities currently being planned and implemented in the region will host semi-automated or even automated logistics operations.
“We do not see that this is necessarily caused by the increase in cost of labour the Middle East, we rather see that the markets demand logistics operations to deliver faster and more reliable output, often covering very large numbers of small shipments at a high service level for their customers.
“If in a project it becomes clear that a logistics facility may require any automation or mechanisation, it is mandatory to plan it from inside out. This does not only apply to high-bay warehouses, where this approach is clear anyway, but any type of the automation or mechanisation in a logistics facility. Thus, the logistics processes and (alternative) technologies need to drive the design process.”
Giolog and its partners include the discussion and study of utilising automation and mechanisation technology into the scope of our offering.
“Our experience not only reflects logistics technology in itself but also the specific market situation in the region, such as verifying processes, supply chain set-up of various industries, etc., which may be relevant for projects of global players— what works in their home country may not be suitable in the Middle East.”
Most facilities are designed within authority guidelines to client requirements, which usually only come down to usability, longevity of function, budget, and return on investment. Haggard points out that logistics facilities with temperature-controlled areas are very energy intensive.
“Specialised buildings with temperature-controlled areas are considered in the same way as regular logistics facility structures, but with more technical consideration on specialised elements, for example high standards of thermal insulation, air tight control of air infiltration through external building envelope, control of temperature loss through internal and external doors and openings, electrical loads, fire codes, MEP, and customised heating, ventilation and air conditioning.”
Low-carbon and environmental-friendly designs with maximum energy savings for logistics facilities become increasingly important.
Haggard mentions: “A variety of technologies can be suggested by Giolog and its partners to be employed to projects, which ensure the greatest possible comfort with lowest possible energy consumption. We encourage the dialog and presentation from providers in the eco section of the market. Our approach is to suggest possible eco options to the client at the initial design stage, with an assessment of the pros and cons, and to conduct client-provider meetings. If required, Giolog and its partners would then incorporate the systems into the overall design for both MEP and civil applications.
“An example would be roof mounted solar panels, where we may have to consider extra load on the roof and a roofing system to which the solar panels could be fixed, without penetrating the roofing sheets. In addition, a sophisticated ventilation system can use heat recovery technology to keep the air at a pleasant temperature throughout the building. Therefore, Giolog and its partners recognise environmental audit systems, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) already in the beginning of the design stage.”
Dubai-based SirajPower was born out of the partnership between Corys Environment, the environmental investment arm of Green Coast Enterprises, a family owned business established in 1977 and Akuo Energy, a leading French independent renewable energy power producer. The joint venture is devoted to net metering and provides comprehensive turnkey net metering solutions on solar rooftops in the UAE. Whilst the partners have been operating in the field for a number of years and across multiple geographies, SirajPower officially launched its operations in Dubai in January 2016, and since then has secured a number of large and prestigious projects ranging from 0.5MW to 3.5MW, all with blue chip names in the region, including RSA Global, Al Abbar, and Landmark Group.
David Auriau, director, believes that when it comes to sustainability in the region, the trend is extremely positive.
“While 10 years back it was nearly impossible to develop any solar project in the region, things have changed completely now. All countries in the region have started to implement regulations allowing for solar projects to be developed and, accordingly, we have seen this activity peaking up over the last years. Given the very strong commitment of the leadership in the UAE, we are extremely confident that this will continue its upward drive.”
Auriau highlights that this trend works especially well in the case of logistics companies. Given the large size of their facilities, these companies can reduce drastically their carbon footprint to nearly zero and at the same time, reduce substantially their energy bills.
He says: “The carbon footprint reduction can give them some competitive advantage when it comes to attracting customers, who are sensitive to environmental aspects and, moreover, it has a very positive impact on the staff: people are proud to work for a company that has nearly zero carbon footprint.”
Laurent Longuet, director, SirajPower, explains how a sustainable solution, such as solar panels, are fit into the overall design of a warehouse: “The design of the solar system can be done on existing buildings as a retrofit. However, for new buildings, we generally propose to our partners to work alongside the building architect or designer to optimise the design of the building to maximise the energy that can be produced by the solar system.
“There are no specific challenges for installing solar system on logistic facilities. On the contrary, as long as it is done in a professional manner, logistic facilities, due to their large sizes, offer the best opportunities for solar production. We at SirajPower have partnered with some of the biggest players in the logistics industry in Dubai and we do strongly promote such solutions with others.”