Internet shopping shows no signs of slowing down, meaning a real boost in demand for warehouse space in the UK. Industrial property has seen rapid growth in recent years as retailers increasingly need space to fulfil online orders and manage stock.
The Coronavirus crisis placed further stress on supply chains with lockdown rules driving more people to buy online – over 30% of all spending was online in April, up 50% from last year. Additionally, the erratic and volatile consumer trends that came with such uncertain times meant that some products saw rapid spikes in demand and other non-essential products drastically drop. Many large companies were forced to source additional space for pre-ordered goods, where existing stock would not be shifted on to store, due to lack of demand, space or closures. All this meant those products began to pile up in many warehouses, reducing capacity for the newly higher in demand products.
Peter Ward, CEO at UK Warehouse Association, commented back in April; “Warehouses in this situation are quickly reaching capacity, and if they cannot accept any more goods, the consequences potentially could be catastrophic – blockages upstream in the supply chain, fully-loaded containers and trucks unable to discharge, ports unable to cope with the backlog, ultimately prevention of the flow of essential supplies such as food and pharmaceuticals.”
The future of warehousing post-COVID
As lockdowns and restrictions now ease for some, the effects on supply chains and logistics are still apparent and will be for some time. Global logistics market researcher Transport Intelligence recently outlined many ways in which the coronavirus crisis will impact the future of warehousing.
They predict a shift to increased inventory holdings, as insurance against unpredictable peaks in demand, which ultimately means more warehouse capacity is needed. Market turbulence pushes many manufacturers and retailers to reduce risk and move to third party logistics, and also challenges dedicated, long-term warehouse operations, possibly meaning a move towards more multi-user operations and facilities. Shorter contract lengths are also anticipated when demand is not consistent in an unstable economy.
These predictions all point to the need for more capacity and greater flexibility, but not all companies will have the ability to simply rent more warehouse space or upgrade to a larger facility, especially when availability of warehouse space in the UK was already extremely limited, but luckily there are a number of ways to maximise existing warehouse space.
Ways to increase capacity
Creating a mezzanine floor within a warehouse is a really simple way to provide extra space. A cost-effective solution, a mezzanine can in many cases double the available flooring space out of nothing. A great thing about a mezzanine floor is that they can often be permanent or temporary depending on your needs.
More often than not, warehouses have more space than they think they do – they simply need a redesign. The layout and design of a warehouse may not be the best use of the space, 5 or 10 years after it was built, and by reconfiguring the existing space, you often find you can fit in more than thought.
The division of warehouse space in to contained smaller environments, all within the same location was becoming increasingly common even pre-Coronavirus complications. This enables different types of goods to be stored directly next to each other, without the risk of cross contamination; allows different customers goods to be stored alongside each other with clear distinction on which area is which; and can help in controlling temperature between storage areas and between different product types. All of this can be done without needing to expand the existing space or by upgrading to a bigger facility.
The ideal way to divide warehouse space, is with Flexiwall. Flexiwall is a unique fabric partition solution made from reinforced fire-rated PVC and glass cloth panels, and an extremely cost-effective and flexible solution. The panels take up only millimetres of floor space and can be taken down, reconfigured and relocated as needs change, lending itself perfectly to current, and possible future needs of warehouses.
Find out more about how Flexiwall can help maximise warehouse space here.