The Evolution from Warehouses to e-Fulfillment Centers
In recent years the traditional warehouse has transformed itself, elevating its place in the supply chain to meet the demands of e-commerce.
Brock Grayson, AIA
Vice President, Layton Construction
“Over the years, we've been building warehouses that have been part of a supply chain that was feeding brick-and-mortar retail stores,” says Brock Grayson, AIA and Vice President at Layton Construction.
“Warehouses are starting to transform from this place where they sat in the supply chain and received bulk inside the building, and that bulk got repackaged and shipped out to the stores. And then the stores broke it down into individual packages and put it on the shelves,” Grayson says. “What we're seeing now is that these warehouses are becoming the last stop before products get to the consumer. And so the warehouse is moving its place within the supply chain.”
Bulk shipments are no longer leaving as bulk but are being broken down into individual pieces that then get packaged and shipped out one by one. “So the warehouse has had to transform itself into something completely different that we've never seen before,” Grayson says.
Clear heights, electrical services, climate controls, parking and even the number of restrooms have all changed as warehouses have evolved into e-fulfullment centers.
Grayson points to the following current trends in e-fulfillment center design:
Clear heights have increased far beyond the 24-foot clear of 20 years ago and are typically now at least 42 feet. The increased height is not for storing more pallets of products but for mezzanines to accommodate hand-picking.
Electrical services are increasing from the 3,000-6,000 amps of past years to at least 12,000 amps now to service increased technology and climate controls.
Truck Circulation and Employee Parking
A traditional large warehouse usually featured a double-loaded dock, with inbound truck traffic on one side and outbound on the other. “Now with e-fulfillment centers, they need so much area for storage that they only need to utilize one side of the warehouse to bring the product in and ship it out. So we're seeing one side of that building basically getting closed off, and they're storing all the way up to that edge. E-fulfillment centers need a lot more people and so we're trading in the dock, and we're turning it into vehicle parking,” Grayson says.
Tradionally, warehouses operated with a limited crew, and it made little sense to heat or cool an entire warehouse or even large sections of it. But with e-fulffillment, there may be 1,000 or more employees working all shifts, and they expect to work in a comfortable environment, therefore it's not uncommon for e-fulfillment centers to go to completely conditioned spaces in the human occupied areas of the center.
Office Space and Restrooms
A traditional warehouse might have just one or two restrooms for the whole building, whereas e-fulfillment centers need multiple restrooms to service a large number of employees. Because employees may take their breaks at the same time, the restrooms and water supplies have to be able to accommodate a large number of people using the restrooms all at once.
Office space has likewise increased in e-fulfillment centers as additional team members are needed to support the increased number of employees.
New Fulfillment and Distribution Centers
Layton currently has multiple warehouse and distribution center projects under construction. Below is a partial list of projects completed in the past few years.
Amazon Fulfillment Center
The 855,000 square-foot Amazon Fulfillment Center was constructed in 12 months and sits on 71 acres in Salt Lake City’s inland port area, near the Salt Lake City International Airport.
The fulfillment center includes 2.3 million square feet of finished floor space. It features four mezzanines where thousands of robots carry racks containing products to pick stations where employees then move the items along a system of conveyors where they are packaged and prepared for shipping.
Marshalls Distribution Center
One of the largest warehouse facilities ever constructed in the Phoenix market, the Marshalls Distribution Center includes over 300 tilt-up concrete panels to create clear-height storage bays ranging from 32 feet to 52 feet.
The project included 400,000 SF of mezzanine space and was completed in just 10 months.
UPS Regional Hub
The UPS Regional Hub in Salt Lake City was completed in 2018. The facility is 840,000 square feet, boasts more than 300 inbound and outbound dock doors, and is capable of processing 69,000 packages every hour.
The 160-acre site includes a truck maintenance facility, a truck wash building, a retail commerce building, and entrance/security port for trucks, as well as parking and an employee entrance building.
Macy's Fulfillment Center
Macy’s Fulfillment Center near Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a state-of-the-art direct-to-customer fulfillment center that helps the retailer meet the rapid growth of e-commerce and direct-to-customer shipping.
The 2,100,000 SF facility includes a 1,300,000 SF pad and an 800,000 SF mezzanine space. Building dimensions are 1,548’ x 825’ and is a concrete tilt-up structure with 36’ clear height throughout.
HomeGoods Distribution Center
The HomeGoods Distribution Center in Tucson, Arizona, is a 900,000 SF concrete tilt-up distribution facility with a unique building configuration: three buildings in one. The western portion of the building consists of three shipping wings with a total of 216 truck dock positions for outbound furniture.
Clear heights range from 32 to 47 feet.
PV 303 Building A is a 618,350 SF cross-dock warehouse with 36-foot clear height on 39 acres in Goodyear, Arizona. The building was constructed as spec industrial project and fully leased to UPS in May of 2017. It serves as a new package processing hub for their e-commerce division. Layton recently completed construction on PV 303 Building B in the same development.