As robots continue to establish a presence on the warehouse floor, this will significantly impact how these warehouses are both designed and built. More automation via robots will require economies of scale, which will impact the demand for warehouse space. Here is how robots are impacting the industrial warehouse market.
Warehouses Will Scale Down
Space within warehouses will need to be utilized more intensively, which will result in the warehouses becoming smaller. As robots continue to join the warehouse floor, there will be less human counterparts, requiring less horizontal space and more vertical space since robots can easily navigate around multi-mezzanine levels.
Less Land Area Necessary
Robots simply don’t need to drive to work, which means that there will be less parking needed, which is currently a major space sucker for warehouses. The potential for autonomous vehicles offering the ability to drop off and pick up workers at the start and end of their shift will also reduce the need for parking. With more robots on the floor and fewer human workers, there will be less demand for areas like break rooms and cafeteria spaces.
Structures Will Need a Revamp
Mezzanine levels will be necessary in order to support automated systems and robots, which means warehouses will need to be structured with weight bearing abilities in mind. These warehouses will need to be designed to support higher loads than a standard mezzanine to offer greater stability. The floors will also need to be super-flat with no bumps or uneven surfaces so that these robots can smoothly travel around the warehouse floor.
Greater Connectivity with Energy Grids
Automating warehouse space will mean adding more accommodations for advanced technology, improving IT infrastructure and incorporating new software programs that will be interconnected throughout the space. This will all require increased power capacity. Access to a large amount of power will be a central issue in the highly-automated logistics world.
Floors, Floors, Floors
As previously mentioned, one of the biggest changes in the design of warehouses resulting from an increase in automation is the flooring. Automated buildings that will house a large inventory of robots will require thicker floors – in certain cases as thick as 6 to 8 inches – with greater floor tolerances to handle this heavy machinery. The type of material needed for these floors is a lot more complex than just pouring concrete like you would for a traditional warehouse or distribution center.
No matter how much warehouses change and evolve over time due to robots and automation, the location will always be a key influence. Although, smaller warehouses give the opportunity to explore new locations. Warehouses that were limited to only suburban areas due to the size restrictions can now scale down and fit into urban areas. This will need to offset the higher rent and purchase prices for urban properties.
These are just a few ways robots are changing the way warehouses are designed and built. CRE professionals expect this technology to make waves in the near future which will directly affect the industrial real estate market.