The 10 biggest pitfalls in logistics construction

Hardly any topic in logistics is as underestimated as construction. The greatest misconceptions include:

  • Every hall can be used as a warehouse.
  • First you construct a building, then you put a few shelves inside.
  • Logistics buildings are easy to construct.

Actually, it is easy to put a shelf in a room. Accommodating various logistics functions in a building in such a way that all work processes can run smoothly and the space is used optimally is much more difficult. Therefore, for a logistics construction project to be successful, it is important to know the ten biggest pitfalls at least.

1. From the inside out

What would be unthinkable for detached houses is common practice with much more expensive logistics buildings: Only when the shell is standing does the more precise interior design planning begin. However, most of the value creation potential is inside the building. Consequently, the logistical functions – in other words processes, material flows, technology and spaces – must be optimally designed first of all. Only then is it time to plan a tailored building shell. If a logistics building is planned from the outside in, this is often at the expense of functionality and economic efficiency. Undirected material flows, unsuitable shelving, a lack of options for expansion, and suboptimal processes can severely increase investment and operating costs.

2. Thinking ahead instead of reworking

One of the greatest drivers for investment in logistics is unforeseen changes to completed buildings. However, only a few companies can predict their development over the next 10 to 15 years. Therefore, it is important to design logistics buildings so that they can be used flexibly and expanded. Those who already structurally prepare for expansion or conversion at the beginning can significantly reduce investment at a later stage.

3. Master plan with step-by-step approach

Extensive planning with a long-term development concept is the cornerstone of a logistics building that functions in the long run. It is best to lay out the building in a modular fashion, so that each area can be expanded to maximum configuration step-by-step if needed. That is essential particularly with mechanised  storage facilities, because technology cannot be adjusted, or adjustment involves high costs. Before a master plan is developed, the plot must be examined to check its condition and the construction law provisions looked at.

logistics construction masterplan

Master plan enables easy expansion
Using the example of a typically ideal warehouse, it is clear how building expansion can be planned in advance and implemented step-by-step using a master plan. The main advantage is that work areas are enlarged and not completely relocated or split. In this manner, expensive refurbishment or the opening of new sites can be avoided.

4. Dimensions

Logistics buildings are often different in their dimensions to other industrial buildings. As well as space requirements, which vary depending on the logistics technology used and storage capacity required, this particularly affects the building height. For example, a high-bay warehouse is several times higher than a standard building, large forklift vehicles need special clearance height, while the height of the loading gates must be tailored to the vehicle types transporting goods in and out.

5. Arrangement

Inside buildings especially, inadequate arrangement quickly leads to conflicts between architecture, technical building equipment and logistics. This means that support grids prevent optimal logistics organisation, while shelves and forklift technology block important building functions or the building technology is forgotten in the concept for later expansion. Close cooperation with architects, building services and logistics planners during the whole project is therefore absolutely essential.

6. Fire safety

Complex fire safety regulations often drive up investment for logistics buildings and are at the expense of space and functionality. Architects, fire safety managers and logistics planners must therefore develop the building plan in close coordination, in order to keep investment as low as possible. In doing so, all parties will have scope for planning that is important to exploit and tailor to the overall concept. This includes, for example:

  • Architecture: height and width of the cube
  • Fire safety: type of extinguishing system, compensatory measures and much more
  • Logistics: design of fire areas, type of equipment technology and much more
logistics construction three-floor order picking platform

Clever warehouse planning saves high fire safety investment
For wholesaler CA Brill, viaLog planned an all-round fire safety optimised logistics centre. In coordination with fire safety inspectors and VGA, the planning scope was exploited to keep investment as low as possible. The highlight was a three-floor order picking platform. This enabled additional storage space to be gained without extending the floor space. The building thus fell short of the floor space size from which a sprinkler system would have been required. Brill consequently gained storage capacity with less need for investment.

7. Lighting

If the lighting is fitted in a logistics building without taking the equipment and work processes into account, two main problems can occur:

  • Insufficient lighting: Packing and other work areas in particular are often insufficiently lit.
  • Wrong lighting: The most frequent cases are little-frequented work areas that are permanently lit and lights that are hidden by logistics equipment technology.

In order to provide work areas with optimal lighting but save costs, the lighting concept must be tailored precisely to the logistics plan. Work areas can then, for example, be lit in a manner that is friendly to the eye, and little-frequented areas of the building lit by motion sensors as required.

8. Energy

The energy requirements of logistics buildings are often underestimated. Depending on the degree of technology, great amounts of electricity are required to supply work areas, forklift vehicles and other technology. A small automated pallet warehouse alone can therefore consume 1500 kWh per day. In addition, rooms for the infrastructure, such as substations or central and decentralised charging stations, must be fitted. Good logistics planning can offset part of the energy costs with an energy concept. In accordance with the motto “as much as necessary, as little as possible”, battery charging concepts or energy efficiency optimised operation of the logistics technology, for example, can provide noteworthy savings potential.

9. Flooring

The flooring in a logistics building must be extremely durable, as it rarely only supports goods in floor storage. Forklift vehicles are generally involved, which can quickly weigh over 6 tonnes. Extensive forklift technology and platform systems put strain on the floor under the platform supports, often subjecting it to more than 70 tonnes. As well as general load capacity, logistics flooring must satisfy further requirements. For fast and safe internal transport, it must have the following above all for forklift vehicles:

  • Adequate evenness, in order to guarantee level driving
  • Sufficient resistance, to withstand friction from tyres
  • Enough discharge capacity, to discharge the static charge of forklift vehicles
  • Automatic storage facilities require in particular sufficient bending rigidity in their base plates, for trouble-free operations.
logistics construction narrow-aisle warehouse

Problem area: narrow-aisle warehouses
In terms of flooring quality, narrow-aisle warehouses form one of the most sensitive storage areas. Because of the large warehouse height and small distance between the loads and pallets being lifted from the shelves, the evenness of the floor is of particular importance. Any abnormal unevenness can lead to significant fluctuations in the upper part of a vehicle when travelling at full speed. In order to prevent collisions with shelves, companies must significantly reduce driving speed in many cases. This leads to a reduced capacity in the warehouse and higher logistics costs.

10. Facade

The connection between building facades and intralogistics is often underestimated. The most important aspects include:

  • Arrangement: In order to place building openings sensibly and not block them from the inside, architects and logistics planners must coordinate their work in detail.
  • Dimensions: Again and again, logistics-specific dimensions are overlooked. That means subsequent changes (for example to gates) soon result in unexpected costs.
  • Expansion: For later expansion, the necessary openings must be structurally planned straight away.

Conclusion

Logistics buildings are only simple at first glance. From planning to commissioning, companies can end up snared in many obstacles. In order to avoid this, architects, building services and logistics planners must work hand in hand from the very beginning. Only in close coordination can the architectural and logistic requirements be adequately considered and the complete planning scope exhausted for the good of the construction. This enables a building to be created with a shell and core that are tailored to one another.