The pandemic influenced an increase in e-commerce demands. Individuals practiced social distancing while making necessary purchases from home. The surge in online purchases placed stress and efficiency challenges on fulfillment centers (FC).
Engineers evaluated the architectural limitations of warehouses and developed solutions. Various designs are supporting the e-commerce boom, improving FC production rates. Before exploring beneficial industrial features, individuals must evaluate warehouse limitations.
E-Commerce Fulfillment Center Costs
The operational costs of warehouses are high. Some companies struggle to provide their employees with livable wages because of the cost inefficiency. When FC professionals enhance resource conservation, they can effectively increase their savings and employee wages.
There are many uncontrollable costs in a warehouse, like its lease and the local energy prices. A building’s energy is controllable when individuals add efficiency-enhancing technologies and structural designs.
Storage Space Limitations
Inadequately organized FCs can significantly increase processing times, reducing customer satisfaction levels. Some warehouse professionals choose to store products vertically or horizontally, depending on the item’s configuration, minimizing floor space usage and increasing a worker’s access to items without using a forklift.
While machines can increase energy costs, they also improve labor efficiency. Employees work more strenuously and less efficiently without machinery in warehouses.
Many professionals also fail to utilize their FC’s storage potential. If there is space on the racks or workers struggle to move products, the design is inefficient.
Individuals can increase the aisle width, creating a supportive environment for storing and loading safely. Architects can also improve an FC’s compatibility with technology, decrease its energy use, and enhance its savings by developing supportive infrastructure.
Supportive Industrial Designs for FCs
Industrial architects can meet design needs, improving production and efficiency rates by increasing the flexibility of floor layouts. As the holidays approach, it is difficult to predict the top gifts. If consumers are purchasing more bulky equipment for their loved ones, warehouse professionals must rearrange their floors to accommodate the stock size.
They may also adopt reliable equipment to maintain adequate workflows at FCs. Workers can increase the stability of warehouse forklifts by regularly conducting maintenance, like changing the oil and inspecting the tires. They can additionally utilize the technology to improve product stacking in FCs, freeing floor space.
Many distributors are increasing their storage efficiency in FCs by building vertically. They are developing three-story warehouses to reduce congestion on the floor. The building feature also improves centers’ compatibility with urban spaces.
Expansive warehouse buildings took up too much room to function in cities before vertical development. Now, large e-commerce distributors can cut transportation emissions and energy costs by bringing products closer to their consumers.
FCs can additionally enhance their sustainability by adding energy-efficient technologies. Lighting systems consume nearly 15% of the global electricity supply, producing 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Facility managers can replace incandescent lights with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, reducing electricity-related emissions.
LED lights are nearly 75% less energy-reliant than other bulbs on the market. They also last 25 times longer, minimizing landfill pollution. Adding energy-efficient light features may additionally reduce manufacturing facilities’ utility costs. E-commerce professionals can use their savings to improve working conditions, like offering benefits to full-time employees.
FCs may also install smart thermostats to increase the energy efficiency of their structural designs. The technology connects to a building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. It accesses local weather predictions through a Wi-Fi connection, adjusting indoor temperatures for efficiency.
Smart thermostats also use motion detection sensors, turning systems off in vacant warehouses. The energy-saving features can significantly improve the efficiency of FCs and minimize electricity costs. Warehouse professionals can additionally eliminate HVAC emissions by connecting their systems to solar power.
Major e-commerce centers, like Amazon warehouses, are developing renewable energy goals. Amazon created a solar panel project in efforts to design self-sustaining buildings. Their Tilbury FC has over 11,500 module panels, producing enough clean energy to support 700 houses annually.
Solar power is the most cost-effective energy source on the market. Building designers can install compatible roofs on warehouses, reducing their reliance on the conventional grid system. Panels also increase a company’s access to electricity during outages, improving their overall efficiency levels.
Other Fulfillment Center Efficiency Factors
Outside of industrial designs, the employee workflow at an e-commerce warehouse affects its efficiency levels. The way workers and machines function together can decrease an FC’s energy reliance, cutting costs. Product processing also impacts a building’s efficiency.
By improving labor training programs and regulations on the floor, warehouses can support the e-commerce boom. Researchers predict online shopping will become the norm as in-person stores phase out. FCs must improve their energy efficiency and ramp up their use of technology to meet consumer demands and remain competitive in the industry.
Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated. Her work focuses on interior and architectural design and has been published by Build Magazine, the National Association of REALTORS and other online publications.