Sunday 24th Mar 2019 - Logistics Manager Magazine

Dunstable fit-out challenge

Distribution property specialist has recently completed the project management of a multi-million pound fit-out for health and beauty company AS Watson’s 45,000 sq m southern distribution centre at Dunstable.

Watson took over the warehouse shell from developer ProLogis ready for fitting out in September 2006, and the work was finished on time for occupancy in July 2007. The project included 69 doors, dock levellers and scissor lifts for access to the warehouse, on a 45-acre site.

The centre serves Superdrug and Saver stores across the country. AS Watson has a network of 7,800 retail stores globally with stores in over 1,800 cities and with more than 98,000 employees.

The fit-out specification comprised high bay pallet racking served by reach trucks in the main warehouse, including in-rack fire control sprinklers for aerosols and other flammable products in a caged, fire-protected zone. Other works included a staff kitchen, canteen, locker rooms, reception areas and sanitary facilities; external works including a vehicle wash and fuel island; and full electrical and mechanical works including a battery charging bay for the fleet of reach and fork trucks.

As project managers,’s team planned and co-ordinated the work of some 16 different subcontractors, providing the overall direction and organisation of the entire fit-out project.’s Steve Lamb says: “AS Watson and Superdrug’s specification was achievable within a tight budget but we needed to manage each stage and operation very carefully to ensure there was no overrun.”

The earliest task that fell to PWP Building Services was to upgrade and extend the electrical fit out. From the two megawatt feed and main switch supplied, PWP extended the main panel, added a number of outgoing ways, automatic changeover equipment and a one-megawatt standby generator.

The enhanced main panel was used to feed power to 700m of lighting busbar, 2,600 high frequency fluorescent lights, complete with automatic aisle lighting with microwave motion detection sensors and 328 Metal Halide high bay lights. The Metal Halide lights were fitted with automatic detectors so they operate only when there is insufficient natural daylight, saving energy.

A high density sprinkler system was designed to cover the entire warehouse roof area. A total of 22,000 sprinkler heads were installed in the racks, supplied by 26 miles of steel pipe work. Three half-duty diesel fire pumps with a combined duty of more than 16,000 litres/minute are supplied from two water storage tanks with a capacity of some 2.5m pints of water.

Because of the nature of the market in which it operates it was particularly important that the company had the means to ensure that its vehicles could be kept clean at all times.

The automatic, three-brush moving gantry vehicle wash unit supplied and installed by Brendeck is capable of washing commercial vehicles up to 5m high. The design incorporates an environmentally responsible and cost-saving full water recycling system.

For on-site refuelling, the company opted for a 52,000-litre dual compartment, totally enclosed bunded fuel storage tank to store and dispense diesel and engine oil on site. Fueltek, a Blackburn-based specialist designer and manufacturer, supplied the entire fuelling system including electronic dispensers for diesel and gas oil, linked into a fuel management system to give management information. The company also supplied air and water facilities.

The storage, handling and order picking systems have been in operation for a few months and have bedded down well. Pallets are stored up to nine high on 12m Link 51 high pallet racking in 38 aisles accommodating up to 53,000 pallets, although only some 16,000 are currently in store. The 3.1m aisles are accessed by a fleet of reach trucks. Operatives receive picking instructions through a Vocollect voice-directed picking system linked to Superdrug’s infor-based WMS.

Aerosol based products are stored in a 2,950 sq m high security caged zone, fully enclosed from floor to ceiling. Goods are stored and picked using a mix of pallet racking, Carton Live Storage – also supplied by Link 51 – and a carousel unit for retail samplers.

The centre currently ships out around 30 vehicle loads each day to stores in the South East and to its northern RDC, but this volume is expected to more than double as the facility builds up to full capacity during 2008.