Providing service on many levels

04 March 2013

Whole life cost, operational efficiency and safety drive developments in loading bay technology and warehouse design. Hörmann and Prologis have been working together to meet the future needs of customers

Whole life cost, operational efficiency and safety drive developments in loading bay technology and warehouse design. Hörmann and Prologis have been working together to meet the future needs of customers

Consultation with logistics operators and key customers has been established to determine occupiers' evolving needs so that warehouse designs are, as far as possible, future proofed. This work lays the foundations for new product development at Hörmann, which continues to focus its research and development effort to deliver the right equipment to meet operational and energy efficiency demands, while improving safety.

The focus is not just on products but also on how the two companies can provide the best possible service. From this Prologis has introduced the build-to-suit five year lease, where in exchange for a five year lease commitment, Prologis will build a high quality, sustainable distribution centre to meet a customer's exact needs. The short-term nature of the lease means Prologis needs to design the buildings to be flexible and adaptable in order to maximise the value of its investment.

Service and maintenance forms an important element in ensuring the optimised building operates at maximum efficiency. For doors and loading systems this has the added benefit of extending their working life cycle, reducing their overall environmental impact and minimising the risk of a breakdown leading to any costly downtime.

Increased demand for service contracts has not only prompted Hörmann to invest even more in its service provision but has led to new initiatives inspired by the consultation process. New pre-winter checks have been introduced to meet a concern that downtime in winter months can be more costly particularly if a door sticks in the open position. The purpose of the checks is to ensure maintenance and service programmes are working efficiently and that any remedial action is carried out quickly to prevent costly interruptions, particularly during the traditionally busy pre-Christmas period.

As loading systems become more flexible and adaptable, safety and energy efficiency demands are becoming more stringent. To this end there is increasing integration of loading bay components, which in turn calls for service and maintenance programmes that ensure the equipment operates reliably and to its peak potential at all times.

The consultation process has thrown up some anomalies in current warehouse design. Traditionally dock heights in the UK were set at around 4ft (just over 1200mm); however the standard deck height for most trailers is around 1300mm. By adopting this new height as a standard for new developments and installing longer 3.5m dock levellers, a greater range of vehicles can be accepted at an individual loading bay.

This instant flexibility has a benefit in the construction phase, as standard size dock shelters and dock houses can be installed without modification, speeding up the build.

These changes are adding to the benefits that can be achieved, and with supply chains targeted as an area where savings can be made, there is now greater scrutiny of operating costs than ever before.

Mark Moore, service manager for Hörmann in the UK is seeing this change first hand, as he explains: "The days of open door policies for some loading areas and the attitude of 'we'll fix it when it breaks' are long gone. Service contracts with extended warranties are becoming the norm as our customers are ensuring they get the maximum out of their equipment, to run streamlined operations. It is all about quality and service with preventative maintenance recognised as a cost saver by most operators.

The best way to describe the changes we are seeing is to compare our equipment to cars and trucks. When it comes to vehicles the owners adhere to the manufacturers' recommended servicing schedule to maintain warranties, the same is quickly becoming standard for our products." Responding to customers' needs has developed flexibility in terms of the services provided and the future proofing of designs and in the way projects are approached. A specification is built that can satisfy a number of criteria, from the immediate needs of today to the predicted needs of the future.

Hörmann and Prologis have completed a number of projects where the design has been strongly influenced by the need to adapt to potential future requirements. At the BMW distribution centre in Prologis Park Pineham (pictured), 'knock through' pre-cast concrete door panels have been placed between the current loading bays so that additional bays could be easily installed should BMW's needs change. This also adds to the long term use of the building which could readily be modified for any future tenants. At Prologis Park Bradford, an alternative solution was employed and manual, insulated, sectional doors fitted, instead of 'knock through' panels, to a section of a building that was designed to accommodate additional bays should they be required. In both these examples, the flexibility to expand with minimal environmental impact