How should facility managers confront warehouse frustrations?

Online shopping is continuing to grow in popularity and shows no signs of slowing down. But where shoppers see convenience, retailers see obstacles.

Customers increasingly want faster deliveries and free shipping – and there are companies that can meet these expectations. Amazon offers free same-day shipping to some customers, and Wal-Mart recently began offering free two-day shipping on certain items. Large retailers such as these can pull off incredibly quick deliveries because of one key feature: a nationwide network of carefully organized and highly capable warehouses.

As consumers demand faster shipping from their favorite stores, businesses must find new ways to cater to these expectations. For many retailers, this means investing in warehousing, either by renovating existing properties or purchasing newly built locations.

“The average height of a warehouse is now 33 feet.”

Many existing structures are designed to benefit an older model of retail: Shipping large quantities of the same product to a store so it can be shelved. This model isn’t helpful to the retailer delivering one item to a single customer at a time. As such, today’s newest warehouses look much different than those of years past.

Warehouses are getting bigger

For years, a 30-foot-tall warehouse would be considered a large building; in the 1960s, the average height of a warehouse was 24 feet. Over the past few decades, however, warehouses have grown up.

The average height of a warehouse is now 33 feet, according to Bisnow. Some warehouses are even reaching the 40-foot mark, according to Material Handling & Logistics.

Retailers need all the space they can get to store their products. But as any facility manager knows, it’s not just more inventory that businesses are making room for. Taller ceilings provide ample space for new mezzanines that bring picking and packing operations to new heights – literally! By turning unused vertical space into functional workspace, retailers can increase the number of orders being processed at a time.

Beyond mezzanines, warehouses need more material handling equipment and organizational structures to support increasing order numbers.

Bigger bays and more pallet racks are essential for increasing the amount of product storage space. And many companies are investing in automated warehouse solutions that speed up the picking and packing processes and reduce the impact of human error in a fast-paced environment.

Though these retailers are enjoying the ability to serve more customers, they also need to face the challenges associated with keeping ever-growing operations running smoothly. More Than Shipping pointed out that today’s warehouses generally employ one person per thousand square foot –  triple the number of people than a traditional warehouse.

When millions of orders are processed every day, an emerging issue with one piece of equipment among many can easily get overlooked. However, neglecting the problem for too long eventually creates much larger challenges that take longer and are more expensive to remedy. As such, retailers working to expand their operations must make an effort to regularly inspect all machinery within a warehouse. Performing proactive maintenance on key equipment can prevent unexpected downtime and improve efficiency.

Warehouses need better climate control

In addition to increasing functional space, facility managers in charge of big-box warehouses need to consider how to regulate internal climate more efficiently. It’s much more difficult to control the temperature within today’s larger spaces relative to the smaller, basic warehouses of the past. And that means upgraded climate-control measures are necessary for future-proofing facilities and revenue.

Companies are investing in robust Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems to maintain ideal climates for the equipment and supplies they store and operate. Additionally, innovative solutions like warehouse fans are becoming priorities.

Adding more or new climate control systems to a warehouse presents facility managers with even more equipment to maintain.

A faulty HVAC system can have extensive (and expensive) repercussions in the form of poorly manufactured or poor-performing equipment or products and potentially unhealthy working conditions for employees. Each of these issues leads to the same negative impact on operations: downtime and lost revenue.

Total facility management is a difficult job to master, especially at a time when warehouses and the operations within them are rapidly changing. One of the most important things to ensuring operations are running, and will continue to run, at full capacity is prioritizing preventative maintenance and correcting problems before they result in mechanical or business failure. To accomplish this, facility managers need a trusted partner, like Miner Corp., to manage all assets and ensure peak performance of equipment.