How Warehouses Are Adapting for E-Commerce Distribution
As e-commerce continues to grow and become the primary retail channel of consumers, the logistic ecosystem is evolving right alongside online retail. As demand for big box retail space declines due to consumers looking towards shopping online for goods, demand for warehouses has increased.
Game-changers like Amazon Prime’s 2-day delivery has totally changed customer expectations from just a few years ago. Online shoppers are now expecting their orders shipped out within 24 hours of placing them and want to receive their products ASAP. Given these new expectations smaller independent online sellers are left trying to figure out how to compete with the big players (Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, etc..).
This makes it extremely important to understand your business needs for warehouse space. Fulfillment centers near big cities with high density will almost always be high in demand, but with today’s consumer behavior in mind e-commerce distribution centers are beginning to look and operate differently compared to traditional warehouses.
Building Size: Customers demand for increasingly shorter delivery time has been pushing an increase of the average warehouse size. Regional facilities further outside of cities tend to be much larger while “last-mile” facilities in urban centers tend to be slightly smaller.
Ceiling Height: Newer facilities are not only pushing the overall size of the warehouse, but also the ceiling heights. The higher ceilings allow for mezzanine decks to increase the overall floor space of the warehouse.
Loading Dock: Warehouses are having to adapt to an increase in the volume of deliveries, especially at the LTL level. This has pushed an increase in warehouse loading dock space but also the amount of loading docks and grade level doors.
Occupancy Load: Larger distribution centers can house hundreds or even thousands of employees. These facilities are now adapting to offer traditional office amenities at a much larger scale; upgrading climate-control systems, employee lounge areas, kitchen/dining areas, and bathroom facilities.
Parking Lot: With the increase in large vehicle traffic and more employees working out of warehouse locations, parking lots, play an important role in warehouse operations. Large trucks need enough space to be able to turn around and access the loading docks. These larger trucks may also have to stay parked for an extended length while unloading. Parking lots need to have enough space to accommodate large trucks and the increase in employees working out of these facilities.
Security: With a higher traffic volume of people coming in out and of these facilities all day there comes a greater need for addressing location security. These are some of the security features expected at an e-commerce distribution facility; secure fencing around the parking lot, gated entrance, 24/7 video surveillance, and keypad access doors.
As consumer preference continues to shift toward shopping online, e-commerce distribution facilities are growing bigger and becoming more complex. Warehouses will have to continue to respond and adapt to the constantly shifting e-commerce environment.