Servicing the future

12 December 2012

Hörmann and Prologis are collaborating on the design and servicing of loading bays as Prologis introduces a build-to-suit five year lease offer Whole life cost, operational efficiency and safety drive developments in

Hörmann and Prologis are collaborating on the design and servicing of loading bays as Prologis introduces a build-to-suit five year lease offer

Whole life cost, operational efficiency and safety drive developments in loading bay technology and warehouse design are crucial themes, and 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 also lays the foundations for new product development at Hörmann, which is continuing 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 market leaders can provide the best possible service. From this Prologis has introduced the build-tosuit five year lease, where in exchange for a five year lease commitment, Prologis will build a high quality, sustainable distribution centre to meet the customer's exact needs. The short-term nature of the lease means that 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.

The increased demand for service contracts has not only prompted Hörmann to invest even more in its service provision but has also led to new initiatives inspired by the consultation process. New pre-winter checks have been introduced to meet a specific 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 simply to ensure that maintenance and service programmes are working efficiently and that any remedial action is carried out quickly and efficiently to prevent costly interruptions, particularly as the traditionally busy pre- Christmas period begins.

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 also 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 the vast majority of 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 also has a benefit in the construction phase, as standard size dock shelters and dock houses can be installed without modification, speeding up the build process.

All 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 being applied to the operating cost 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, plus the predicted and potential needs of the future.

Hörmann and Prologis have already 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, "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 was a key factor in reaching a solution.

By understanding customer needs and meeting them with innovative solutions, Prologis and Hörmann are set to retain their positions as market leaders.