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Optimal warehouse - tailored to the needs of the operator, the employee and the customer

2019.09.03
Thanks to the development of technology and increasingly better cooperation with developers, the logistics industry can benefit from the growing quality of warehouse space. Economical, ecological, safe, meeting specific storage conditions - these criteria are almost obvious for logistics operators. Recently, however, they have been expecting something more: that the warehouse should be as comfortable and friendly as possible for the employees. Warehouse facility standards are not only a tool to attract customers, but also an element of the employer branding policy.

The situation on the Polish warehouse market – low vacancy rate and still growing demand for space - means that it is currently dominated by BTS (built-to-suit) projects in which the developer and the investor cooperate closely from the earliest stage of development. As a result, the logistics operator receives a warehouse that corresponds exactly to his guidelines in various aspects.

Raben Group is continuously looking for increased efficiency, hence it needs partners who are able to deliver higher standards of facilities. For instance, in a standard warehouse (10.0 m high) with the standard width of rack aisles, it is possible to store less than 1.4 pallets per square metre of the warehouse. If the warehouse is higher (11.5 – 12.0 m), this rate rises to 1.6 pallets per square meter. In the case of higher warehouses and the use of the so-called narrow rack aisles (which creates the need for floors of a higher standard), at least 2 pallets per square meter are obtained. This is what we were able to achieve in the facility leased in Ruda Śląska, where thanks to the innovations introduced in the building standard, Raben Group can offer a competitive advantage to its customers.

Equally important is the energy efficiency of the building, which results both from the pro-ecological attitude of the company and its care about costs. In own and leased warehouses, Raben Group uses innovations in this field, like LED systems with sophisticated automation (presence detection, daylight compensation), heating / air conditioning systems with increased efficiency, or additional insulation of dock platforms. The logistics operator also places great emphasis on fire safety resulting from the specificity of the stored goods. There is no room for compromise when it comes to the storage of seemingly safe but actually dangerous products such as plastics, especially foamed plastics (nappies, tyres, toys, etc.). If the company is considering storing such non-standard goods in the facility, it decides to invest in non-standard technical solutions, such as increased performance of sprinkler systems.

Recently, one more factor has been gaining in importance during the design and construction of warehouse facilities - future staff and their requirements. Lack of staff is currently the number one problem for logistics service providers, so even the best mathematically calculated location for a cross-dock warehouse will not be accepted by a logistics operator if the availability of workforce is limited in a specific area. Many warehouses and logistics service providers in one place can create a kind of ‘labour desert’, i.e. a situation where local demand for workers is higher than the number of available employees. Meanwhile, Raben Group provides more and more additional services (VAS - Value Added Services) in its warehouses and the related processes, due to their complexity or exceptional character, require high employment, despite investments in automation.

Locating the facility in the location with a large number of potential employees is only partial success because warehouse staff are increasingly demanding, they expect working conditions that are not only safe but also as friendly and comfortable as possible. As a result, warehouses where VAS services are offered have zones with natural light, above-standard artificial lighting and a higher temperature. The choice of a logistics centre as a workplace is also determined by criteria such as the possibility of parking a car near the warehouse or air conditioning in the office. The quality of heating, ventilation and lighting is more important than ever, and the key to employee well-being is both proper design and maintaining the ongoing performance of all these systems. Raben Group is aware of such needs and therefore it always ensures parking spaces, better quality HVAC systems, increased intensity and appropriate colour of lighting, and finally interior finishing.

A good example of employee care is the head office of Raben Logistics Czech located in Nupaky near Prague, which was opened in April 2018. The logistics centre, which includes modern warehouses, a cross-dock warehouse, offices and a car park, is surrounded by 22,000 m2 of green areas with trees and bushes. Instead of a traditional noise barrier, the noise protection is guaranteed by a natural embankment that can be used by children for sleighing during winter. Nearby there is also a stream where you can relax in the hot summer days.

Summarising: the evolution of the market of leased warehouse space undoubtedly helps Raben Group in its logistics operations. Developers are now willing to invest in locations that were once outside their area of interest, e.g. in smaller towns or in Eastern Poland, where just a few years ago it was necessary to invest in one's own real estate. Investors are also increasingly inclined to build highly specialized warehouses, better adapted to the needs of modern logistics (e.g. cross-dock warehouses, warehouses prepared for storing special goods). More and more often, therefore, the construction of own facilities is a choice and not a necessity for a logistics operator. However, regardless of the choice he makes, when implementing the project, he must take into account not only the operational priorities and needs of his customers, but also the requirements of the potential employee.

Author
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Marek Zychla

Investment Director

Raben Real Estate Poland