Warehouses are filling up as the Christmas peak looms – perhaps it’s time to look at temporary space solutions…
In uncertain times, temporary warehousing space can be a real benefit, either with a temporary building or by using one of the growing number of services that enable companies to take on temporary space at short notice. Charlie Pool, chief executive of Stowga, says: “Companies that experience seasonal peaks such as the Black Friday and the Christmas period where there is a surge in customer demand would benefit from temporary warehouse space. Sometimes temporary warehousing is useful for organisations who need to react to something, like fashion trends, for example. Every time Kate Middleton wears a new dress, retailers can experience an unpredictable supply chain spike as the public rush out to copy her. Temporary warehousing can also be helpful in emergency situations where supply chains have to be built in quick response. Companies cannot afford to have their supply chains limited by warehousing constraints, so temporary storage is useful,” says Pool. Rod Benham, managing director of Dawsongroup temperature control solutions, says: “We find the most common needs are to facilitate new customers or an upturn in orders from existing customers. It doesn’t matter if additional space is to be used for storage, assembly, picking or packing, the number one priority speed. In today’s markets customers do not wait, they can’t afford to, so people need a rapid solution. The simple fact is that missed opportunities may not come again.” Pool points out that an inflatable warehouse can be put up in hours and serves well for the events industry where the structure might only be needed for a matter of days. “On the other hand, you have more industrial scale temporary structures which might be up for a weeks or months at a time. The agriculture sector is a great example of this, where a farm may need to store crops under cover for a few months at a time,” he says. “Then you have a more abstract form of temporary which sits in a permanent location; space within a permanent warehouse that isn’t being fully used. This is becoming more and more popular as internet platforms for warehouse space, such as Stowga, can unlock this storage capacity. This gives organisations the full benefits of a permanent warehouse such as access, security, facilities and fulfilment services, but without the long term commitment of leases,” says Pool. The standard offering from Dawsongroup temperature control solutions is a portal frame system designed using aluminium box profile for the main beams, with steel inserts connecting the roof beams and uprights for the wall cladding, says Benham. “That cladding in our systems at Dawsongroup is steel sheet system, specified from a variety of gauges depending upon insulation requirements, with the roof made of PVC fabric or steel. Standard sizes usually range from 5m to 30m wide, 4.2m to 6.2m high and unlimited length, with bays coming in 5m multiples. You will read that these buildings can be designed to last for ‘up to’ 30 years but that is very dependent on the materials used, which is why we are committed to proper site and needs analyses, spending significant planning time with customers to ensure that the right materials are used to satisfy their needs. It may sound obvious, but some firms skimp on this stage, and customers suffer for years afterwards. He points out that a fast-growing alternative to the standard offering is an inflatable structure. Dawsongroup recently acquired Tectoniks which designs and manufactures the latest generation of portable event, military and industrial structures, based on a new inflatable technology, developed in-house. “With ever increasing pressure on margins, efficient process flow is key, so one of the greatest advantage for logistics is the ability to place temporary buildings where they are most needed. Although the portal frame system has inherent flexibility in this respect, this is where the inflatable solution will often have the upper hand as they are so much easier to move should the situation change, and few things are more certain than that at some stage they will,” says Benham. One of the key factors in this market is the speed with which the space can become available. This varies quite dramatically depending on the type of structure. Pool points out that once the paperwork is in place, “then companies such as Copri Systems can put up something as big as 25 metres squared in just three days”. Benham says that while inflatables can be erected very quickly, portal frame systems will take from six to eight weeks. “In all cases though, proper discussions and project analysis needs to take place with the customer. In the case of portal frame systems, materials will need to be sourced, and in both frame and inflatable solutions, the installation team has to be booked and briefed. One word of warning however, because we know it does happen, be very wary of those suppliers of either system who will quote without a site visit. That’s the difference between ‘cost cutting’ and ‘cost efficiency’ and can present nightmares for logistics companies trying to respond quickly and professionally to customer and market changes. Look for a professional partner who can also give you an interim solution.” Calculating the return on investment can be a challenge. Stowga’s Charlie Pool points out that it is dependent on the value-add. “If you are storing a high margin product, the ROI will be enormous so the cost of storage becomes irrelevant. Each case will be different but if the building is required to do business and makes economic sense, the return on investment will always be positive. It’s important that business isn’t held back just because of warehousing constraints.” Benham says the RoI “really depends on who you choose as your temporary building supplier. The right partner will offer a proper consultation service, not just a quick quote, to ensure they have a true understanding of your business – and, just as important, that you have a true understanding of the features and benefits of the available structures that might meet your immediate and longer-term needs. “They will collaborate fully with your internal team to understand your processes to ensure any proposed solution suits your business perfectly, thus maximising tour ROI. For the right solutions, we have seen investment returned with just a year or so on some installations, but be wary of looking solely at cash returns. The right installation, in the right place and planned well, can save thousands of man-hours, resulting in unexpected savings in labour and massive increases in efficiency,” says Benham.
Temporary canopy for Mars-Jones
North West logistics company Mars-Jones secured additional business thanks to its ability to load and unload goods undercover after installing a temporary loading canopy from Spaciotempo. The canopy measures 13m by 19m on a 6.6m eave but, can be expanded to accommodate further growth. Three articulated vehicles can fit under the sheltered bay, covering 247 sqm, at any one time. Managing director Phillip Mars-Jones says: “Our new canopy has already helped us grow our business significantly and we’re now able to take on contracts that we previously could not. A lot of companies now stipulate that goods and pallets must be kept covered and at certain temperatures so that they don’t get wet and dirty, leading to damaged and lost stock.” From start to finish, it took less than one week to install the canopy. Spaciotempo undertook a full site scan prior to construction and the in-house team provided a CAD design. To further weatherproof the canopy and protect staff and products, the structure was built with a single sheet steel side elevation and perforated steel cladding at the rear, allowing wind to travel through safely. A prefabricated link connects the canopy to Mars-Jones’ existing permanent warehouse while the tall eave was designed to accommodate existing roller shutter doors.
This feature first appeared in the October issue of Logistics Manager.