Friday 30th Sep 2016 - Logistics Manager

Top tips to be tip top

With the virtual half of speculative development there is strong evidence that D&B may soon be the norm. Liza Helps gets a crash course in DIY project management.

King Sturge’s recent Industrial Floorspace survey noted that speculative development under construction across the country decreased some 14.1 per cent since the company’s previous survey, falling to 13.4 million sq ft across 113 schemes.

Anecdotal evidence suggests some three months on that any speculative development that was not already on the cards has virtually ground to a halt.

The reasons behind the fall are in essence twofold. Firstly, it is the result of the credit crunch. Tony O’Keefe of DTZ says: “The credit crunch has had far reaching effects on the industrial market. This has been most notable in capital markets where some property funds and developers have effectively halted any further market activity for the short term.”

With less money to fund development there will naturally be a reduction in the amount of space built speculatively. If that were not enough the government’s decision to abolish Empty Rates Relief has put a seal on speculative development except for those already too far down the line to halt.

Lambert Smith Hampton’s National Industrial and Distribution Report 2008 says that there is already evidence of this, with Evans Easyspace announcing it would postpone two new developments proposed for Merseyside and Staffordshire. While at XL in Skelmersdale, Gazeley is now offering design and build options [where once it had thought it would develop speculatively].

It looks like the only viable alternative is Design & Build. While many developers will gladly take on the sole responsibility for the project management of such a development, occupiers keen to move in quickly will be tempted to try and hurry the process up and that is where mistakes can be made.

According to sbh’s Laurie Sice, companies often overlook vital services and design elements, which can be far more expensive to install when work is on site or after completion.

Included among the design and specification aspects clients may fail to address are the warehouse floors. Will the floor specification have the correct load bearing or VNA equipment properties for the racking structure or be within the level tolerances for high bay order picking trucks, if you can use them?

Remedial work and grinding to improve tolerances can be costly and rarely provides the standards, which could have been achieved by laying the floor correctly in the first place.

Electrical services are another area that can easily be overlooked. Sice says: “You may require a standby generator or the facility to connect a portable standby generator. While this may appear to be part of the fit-out, it will affect the developer’s works, as they will need to supply the incoming main, its arrangements and the split between essential and non-essential services. Battery charging likewise will need to be identified early on for power supply requirements, taking into account actual battery charging rates rather than connected loads.”

Strange

Although it may seem strange, continues Sice, “there are times when one person prepares the plans for goods-in areas and dispatch areas and someone else specifies the handling and unloading equipment. But do they compare notes? Do you require a telescopic or hinge lip on the dock levellers, dock levellers with under crofts to enable tailgate loading, and is the dock height correct?”

There is a well-known story of a scheme that was built in Europe with underground delivery. Once completed it dawned on the developer that the lorries were too tall to fit – a costly mistake.

Sice also points out that occupiers need to be aware that it is easier to control insurance premiums at build level rather than wait until later. He says the insurance industry is increasingly concerned about the use of composite panels on the roof and in walls. “Will the intended roof and wall coverings be insurance approved by the Loss Prevention Council or Factory Mutual?”

Segregating high-risk materials, in-rack sprinklers and fire prevention measures should be at the heart of the planning process and may encourage your insurer to look on the business more favourably. Likewise security systems including CCTV, suitable perimeter fencing and controlled access to goods will help reduce the risk of theft and building damage.

Waste disposal

If that were not enough then there are the demands of the Packaging Directives, which have focused on the need for an environmentally responsible attitude to waste disposal. Waste compactors need space, contractors need access and your staff should be able to transport waste easily from the warehouse to whatever waste disposal containers are appropriate.

And if you need to store LP Gas to fuel forklift trucks, remember that they will need their own dedicated and specially designed storage away from the building, as will any other combustible goods held on site.

It’s a fact of life – machines run into things despite the best disciplines. Yet so often walkway barriers, handrails, racking protection and other safety structures seem to be overlooked – until the Health and Safety Inspector walks round.

Most distribution centres will run a fleet of vehicles. It may be more economic and practical to provide fuel on site, in which case you will need to allocate space for refuelling islands. Ensure too that you consult with the relevant authorities well in advance about the storage and handling of diesel fuel. And at the same time plan a vehicle wash area not forgetting suitable fuel and rainwater separators, all of which can be very expensive to install.

Sice reminds us that while an occupier’s Day One plan for the warehouse fit-out may identify the most suitable material handling system, racking, conveyors and other equipment, have they considered flexibility for the future?

“Column dimensions and clear column-to-column face dimensions are critical rather than just column centre line grids. Will you have clear space to accommodate alternative rack layouts without major disruption?

“Circumstances may change even from the design date to completion and it’s almost certain that within a couple of years the nature of the business will be different. While it is impossible to predict the future, simple steps such as laying basic services to possible areas for expansion may help minimise the pain and cost of adapting the building as needs change.”

Last but not least there are the needs of the workforce. According to a survey for Savills by YouGov, factory and warehouse employees are less concerned with their immediate workplace comfort compared to other sectors; rather their primary concern is lighting and car parking.

The report also reveals that 78 per cent of respondents travel to work by car and it is this that is behind the importance placed on car parking. On the whole, workers would appear to be more accepting of the out-of-town locations of their work places and indeed the lack of nearby amenities. However, this means that employees tend to be more demanding in terms of on-site facilities compared to those in other sectors; canteens, for example, were rated by 46 per cent of employees as important to very important, higher than reported by office workers.The credit crunch has had far reaching effects on the industrial market. This has been most notable in capital markets where some property funds and developers have effectively halted any further market activity for the short term.

It’s a fact of life – machines run into things despite the best disciplines. Yet so often walkway barriers, handrails, racking protection and other safety structures seem to be overlooked – until the Health and Safety Inspector walks round.