TAKING STOCK: The space race

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by Emily Atkins
Inside Logistics editor Emily Atkins.

We’ve got two stories that hinge on the price of real estate this issue, but neither is a real estate story. Both are about companies that have tailored their logistics to adapt to the rising cost of land. What’s cool is that they come at the solution from totally opposite directions.

Christie Lites (featured on page 14) has an enviable location right on the edge of downtown Toronto that is expedient for its business model. But, as you might expect, there’s nowhere to grow there – at least not with a larger footprint – and moving is also prohibitively expensive.

Their solution to running out of space on the warehouse floor is to look up, way up. The company installed vertical lift modules to store wiring for stage lighting, saving space, saving time and improving ergonomics for staff.

DSV, on the other hand opted to go big (see page 18). Planning for growth, and trying to accommodate merged businesses, the company saw the opportunity to create efficiencies by combining facilities for three divisions into one. But to do that they needed 50 acres, prompting a search far and wide, away from the prime real estate of the GTA.

They chose Milton, Ontario as the site for their 1.1 million square foot facility. And even with that much space, DSV is building the DC with a 40-foot clear roof, to maximize the cube.

That’s logistics these days. Real estate calculations are driving decision-making for not only site selection and network design, but also increasingly the configuration of buildings and the technology chosen for operations. When you run out of space operations get messy and costs creep in, along with errors and unhappy customers.

Creative solutions are the answer. Going up in an existing space – as Christie Lites did – is one way to solve the space dilemma. Micro-fulfillment is another, and giant, million-square-foot-plus DCs like DSVs are yet another.

A common thread in all these solutions is that new technologies are facilitating better space utilization. From vertical lifts, to micro-DCs, to VNA applications and massive, fully robotic AS/RS units, the choices are growing and new solutions are showing up all the time.

Are you making space-optimizing adaptations in your operation? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the space race.

Please drop me a note!