Finding warehouse space that works for you

Any business with a reasonable amount of stock will probably end up looking for warehouse space from time to time. For smaller organisations in particular, this can be a nightmare as most warehousing seems to be geared to large businesses and to incorporate elements like logistics and automation. But there are still great choices for smaller businesses, and doing your homework can be the crucial step to finding warehouse space that meets your needs.


Questions to answer before renting warehouse space


a – What size space do you need?


Of course this is the biggest consideration when renting industrial space, because square footage is how rental is organised. However, there are other questions to answer too. How often do you need to access your stock? Is pallet storage an option for you or does your stock need to go into pick and pack shelving straight away? Have you factored in the cost of racking and forklifts (and forklift training) if you’re going to stack your stock high? Does your stock level fluctuate – because if so, flexible warehouse rental space may be your best option even if it’s more expensive when you need more space, because it will be cheaper when you need less.

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b – Warehouse Location


It goes without saying that location is vital to success in renting warehouse space. But there are other factors to consider. If you have multiple locations, which is the 1st for your warehousing? Should it be close to your workforce or to a major distribution centre like a big city? how close is it to major transport networks – and have your considered whether sticking to one transport system (eg road) is your best option or whether you should look at multiple options (road + rail or road + water) given the uncertainty there has been over both road and rail transport recently. There’s another location consideration too – is there a hub for you kind of industry in your area? Being close to other businesses like your own can help by reducing logistics costs, although it can also make competition for skilled workers more intense. If your warehousing is going to be visited by customers, then choosing a location that gives them confidence is probably going to be the biggest consideration.


c – Specialist warehouse requirements


Is your stock temperature controlled? Fragile? Will damp affect your products badly? Do you need 24 hour access? If so, are your warehouse and the surrounding haulage ways adequately lit? There may also be limits on road transport in built-up areas that it’s important to factor into your planning. Do you need access for large vehicles? If so, is there parking space outside? Does your logistics fulfilment partner have special needs relating to your warehouse space? All these can influence the space you decide to rent.


d – Staffing considerations


A much overlooked element when  deciding to rent warehouse space is staffing. Is there adequate parking and public transport for your warehouse personnel? Are there amenities for them such as food shops or visiting food vans? In major cities there are both congestion zone and emission zone charges to consider, as they have a major impact on how much people have to spend to be able to get to work.


e – Future proofing


Unless you are actually purchasing commercial property, you’ll probably be making decisions on a lease or rental basis. Factoring in your future plans can help you make sure you’re going to get the best deal for the length of your lease or rental. Are you planning to increase your stock offering, or diversify your organisations? Perhaps you’re actually refining your offering, reducing the number of lines and specialising more? While none of us can predict the future, we can choose warehouse space that fits with our current understanding of an organisation’s future plans.


Inspecting your potential warehousing space


When you undertake a tour of the locations you’ve shortlisted, there are questions you need to answer before making a decision on renting warehouse space.


First, check whether there are restrictions on the building use – it’s easy to overlook codicils written into a lease or restrictions imposed by a local authority that might limit the ability to put up floodlighting for evening deliveries or add a small manufacturing facility to your warehousing space.


Second, check power supplies – some ‘light’ industrial units aren’t wired for heavier machinery. If everything else is perfect, an organisation might be willing to rewire, if required, but given the effect on capital outlay, it’s important to be aware of this potential cost in advance.


Third, look at the loading docks – they can vary in height and while a standard UK height is 1.2 metres many lorries have a cradle that is higher or lower than this: Refrigerated vehicles are often 1.3/1.4 metres while removal lorries often have a cradle height of just .9 metres. Dock levellers may be an option, but they add to your capital costs and also increase the time taken to load and unload vehicles. This doesn’t mean that a less than ideal dock height is a deal-breaker, but it does affect the entire operation of the business.


Fourth, consider security and safety. Warehousing has increasingly become a target, especially when it’s close to a major transport route so that stolen goods can rapidly be moved out of the vicinity. Security cameras, good lighting, strong access points and safe well-policed locations can all make a difference to a business’s risk profile, and its insurance premiums. Checking out whether the building is on a flood plain is sensible – too many local authorities have allowed industrial development on high risk areas to leave this to chance. Finally, what kind of fire suppression system is installed – and is it suitable for your stock?


Once you’ve toured your shortlist, you should have a real sense of how each space will work for your company. You’ll have considered how your workforce will be able to get to and from work, whether the space is suitable for your current and future operations and looked at whether extra expenditure is likely to be required to make the warehouse ideal for your needs. Now you can make a decision, confident that you’ve taken into account the main risks and fully understood how each warehousing space will benefit your company.


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