The Benefits of Going In Over Your Head

It has been a design trend for a decade or more – transforming old factories and warehouses into chic modern office space. These old buildings are often convenient to the city core and they make appealing workplaces for companies seeking to attract hip urban employees. High tech, fashion, creative services, and media are among the many businesses relocating to these upcycled structures.

While each of these vintage buildings is unique, they share one thing in common: high ceilings. The buildings’ former function required a lot of headroom which most of the service-oriented businesses of today don’t need. Designers often make a feature of the extra volume, as reviewed by Karen Kroll in “Building Operating Management.”

The in-town location and industrial-chic look come at a price, however, when compared to more mainstream commercial space. Those high ceilings represent a lot of wasted space when volume is factored into the square-foot rental cost. But there’s good news, in the form of vertical storage. Motorized storage lifts can be adapted to store almost anything, from documents to bicycles, in overhead spaces. Warehouse-style steel mezzanine structures add a second level within a large space. Both of these storage options are comparatively inexpensive, and they fit right in with the urban-industrial look favored by today’s tenants.

If you’re considering a move into one of today’s super-hip repurposed warehouse spaces, discuss overhead storage with your designer. You’ll keep your real estate costs on track, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the design aesthetic.


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Is Your New Warehouse Illegal?

From Southern California to Washington, D.C., new warehouses are springing up overnight to meet market demands. There’s one time-consuming phase of warehouse build-out, however, that shouldn’t be bypassed regardless of how much of a hurry you’re in.

As reported by Site Selection Group, the demand for new warehousing is spurred by e-commerce’s continued exponential growth, where volume and speed-to-market are critical success factors. Warehouses can be constructed relatively quickly – an average of 81 days in the U.S. – but the permitting process for racking systems can potentially slow your build-out to a crawl, extending your timeline and costs.

Of course, the short-term costs of a longer timeline are far outweighed by the long-term costs of injuries and product losses (not to mention fines) in the event of racking system failures. It’s important to work with an experienced storage consultant who will design and install safe, reliable storage racks. Their expertise could help you speed up permit sign-offs from the building department and the fire department.

Building a strictly legal environment for your employees and your products will ultimately save you big-time in terms of safety and liability. Read more here about permitting, and see a video showing what happens when unpermitted racking fails in a seismic event.


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Logistics Management – Legal Air Space for Drones

Concerns about safety and legalities are restricting the use of drones everywhere, except in one rather surprising place: the great indoors of mega-warehouses.

It’s completely legal to fly drones inside a private space, and logistics experts are putting drones to use inside large warehouses to automate certain tasks. Warehouses are finite spaces, and they can be mapped into drones’ programming for highly accurate flights. With the added ability to read RFID tags, drones can perform the mundane labor-intensive “cycle counting” that maintains an accurate inventory.

Walmart, one of the nation’s largest warehousers, has instituted a pilot program (no pun intended) to automate inventory management with drones. They estimate that a drone will be able to accurately check as much inventory in one day as a human employee can in a month – an impressive improvement in efficiency and effectiveness. And there’s the added factor of personnel safety: warehouse employees don’t have to climb ladders or operate lifts to count inventory.

Indoor drone usage isn’t right for every warehouse and every logistics manager. Ceiling height, interior walls, and racking systems all must be considered before moving to drone automation. And drones themselves are not cheap, particularly when spatial programming and RFID readers enter the equation. But for some businesses, it could be well worth the investment. Consult with a storage professional to see if drones are right for your warehouse operations.


Photo © trekandphoto / Fotolia

Trending: Retail Stores as “Museums”

Retailers have struggled with consumers’ growing habit of “showrooming” – shoppers come to stores to see, touch, learn about, and try on products which they then buy from a low-price low-overhead online retailer. Brick-and-mortar retail grew last year in the single digits, while e-commerce enjoyed a 22% growth rate. Are physical stores going to be phased out completely?

Not at all, says Natasha Baker, writing in Retailers can and should embrace showrooming and turn it to their advantage. Baker cites one expert who recommends thinking of stores as “museums” where shoppers can go to explore, learn about products, and be entertained. Retailers can gather instant analytics about shoppers’ preferences, just as e-commerce sellers do. Proximity sensors and “smart shelves” can follow individual shoppers via smart phone apps, and they can suggest related products or alert shoppers to customized coupons (think of Amazon’s suggested products). As reported in, stores like Bloomingdale’s are even using e-commerce to test new products by displaying them in the store but selling them only online.

By adopting the “store-as-museum” model, retailers can also manage inventory much more effectively. Rather than keep large supplies of inventory in back rooms, stores can keep a relatively small number of products on hand, supplemented by deliveries from their warehouses. With access to the stores’ customer analytics system, warehouses can prep inventory for shipment in advance of a shortage, or fulfill online orders placed in stores.

Embracing the technology of virtual commerce can represent real-world savings to savvy retailers. With less need for in-store storage, retailers can reduce their real estate overhead while maximizing their less-expensive warehouse space to supply both their online shoppers and their “museum” stores.


Photo © Ruslan Semichev/Fotolia

Buying A Racking System? The Wrong One Will Cost You Extra

As warehouse management systems become widespread, racks and shelves are delivering efficient space utilization and superior fulfillment speeds. Amazon’s reputation for light-speed deliveries have encouraged other e-tailers to emulate Amazon’s fulfillment productivity. You may be tempted to retrofit your warehouse with used shelving racks, yours or someone else’s, with cost savings in mind.

Writing in Modern Materials Handling, Josh Bond cautions that re-using a racking system can cost far more in the long run. An existing system rarely fits in a new materials-handling design, particularly when you’re looking for space savings and picking efficiency. Enlisting an expert to help you plan for the short term and the long term may seem more expensive at the outset, but you’ll save costly disruptions when it’s time to expand storage capacity or add an automated materials handling system. Read the discussion here:

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Santa’s Little Helpers: Amazon’s Robots

It’s no secret that Amazon’s warehouse management is state-of-the-art. In its pursuit of ever-faster fulfillment, Amazon has started using a robot-assisted picking system named Kiva. Dave Clark, Amazon’s V.P. of worldwide operations, says, “Kiva’s doing the part that’s not that complicated. It’s just moving inventory around.” People do the part that requires judgement, confirming that the item is the correct one (and whether it meets Santa’s standards).

In additional to efficiency gains, one of the great benefits of the robotic system is a net gain in storage space – robots don’t need aisles. Storage racks can be condensed to increase capacity without expanding the warehouse’s footprint – a cost-savings gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. Read the full story at:


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