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Cliff Holste

Supply Chain Digest
Material Handling Editor

Logistics News - Sorting It Out

Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

January 4, 2017

Sorting It Out : When Looking For a New DC Shippers Must First Develop A Requirements Document

Avoid Facilities that may Inhibit Current or Future Operational Flexibility


Given the potential for a rapidly expanding marketplace, many U.S. shippers will be looking this year for new space that they can occupy quickly. However, they would be well advised to first develop an optimum building requirements document for the products that are going to be received, stored and shipped from the new facility. This document is usually done in collaboration with the company’s logistics consultant and/or systems integrator, and allows for a preliminary budget and timeline to be developed.

Holste Says...

Shippers that need to find new space quickly, need to avoid being forced into make major compromises to their operating methods.

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The requirements document typically includes the following:

  • a process flow chart,
  • an operations square footage block diagram,
  • storage cube utilization analysis,
  • number of receiving/shipping dock doors,
  • trailer staging space,
  • expected maximum employee count,
  • along with future operational requirements and growth considerations.

The above is then further developed into an optimum building layout and site plan that serves as a tool to evaluate existing facilities or green field sites that could be considered.

One of the often over looked factors is the impact of building codes. The following is a list of a few of the common code issues that have a bearing on the evaluation/selection process:

  • Requirements such as high bays and low bays separated by double MFL (maximum foreseeable loss) Factory Mutual firewalls are becoming more prevalent and may need to be added to an existing building to pass code and/or fire insurance requirements. 
  • Building height comes into play when considering ESFR (early suppression fast response) sprinkler systems versus more costly in-rack sprinkler systems.
  • Depending on location seismic requirements may have to be taken into consideration.
  • Emergency exits must be located at specific distances from work areas. Sometimes escape tunnels are required in larger facilities. In an existing building, compromises may have to be made to the optimum layout to be in compliance.
  • If high bay storage (6 or more pallets high) is required, then floor flatness becomes an issue for narrow aisle and very-narrow aisle applications. Floor flatness is an important factor because some lift truck manufacturers will not warranty new lift trucks unless the floor meets certain flatness and levelness specifications. Lift Truck providers will have this information.
  • The roof structure of the building needs to be taken into consideration especially if equipment like conveyor, catwalk, and platforms/mezzanines are going to be supported from the roof steel. Other considerations are - location of skylights and roof drains, location and candlepower of overhead lighting systems, and location of all other ceiling mounted equipment. 
  • Environmental considerations such as heating & air-condition as well as air changes per hour needs to be considered and if not adequate needs to be fixed upfront. 
  • The shippers expected power requirements may exceed what is available. That means going back to the utility company and requesting additional power.
  • The facility may not be sized properly for the expected number of employees with regard to restrooms, brake rooms, parking spaces and other employee support services. In addition handicapped worker requirements may need to be considered. 
  • Bay spacing is something that cannot be changed. Most often the column grid pattern will not fall within the flue space between back-to-back racks resulting in less than optimum storage cube utilization. Also, in receiving and shipping areas, if the first row of building columns is set back less than 60 feet from the dock, they can impede the optimum flow of goods on the dock. 
  • Shippers that expect to have a large number of employee automobile and vendor truck traffic flowing in and out of the site may experience considerable traffic congestion issues.

All of the above issues have operational, cost, and schedule considerations that need to be included in the evaluation. It’s very important to check with local authorities for specific applicable build codes.

Final Thoughts

No doubt, there are many critical business and operational issues to consider before one can determine the pros and cons of a new facility. However, shippers that need to find new space quickly, need to avoid being forced into make major compromises to their operating methods. Taking into consideration that the decision will have long term consequences for the company, the new space needs to be in the right location, have access to labor, and can accommodate foreseeable future needs.

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