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photo of large dock high warehouseIf you are considering renting, leasing or purchasing a warehouse facility and would like to get off to the best start possible, I advise taking ample time to define your needs in a facility. Here are some specific criteria to consider

Clear Height

Warehouse operations inherently involve high ceilings under which to conduct various types of businesses. Some examples of these operations include manufacturing a product and lifting material with cranes, stacking pallets of merchandise in order to maximize storage capacity, or utilizing machinery with certain height requirements. Almost all warehouse operations have some requirements for clear height in the warehouse area. Unfortunately, the supply of high clear warehouses in a strong market can be extremely limited. In some instances, a lower clear facility may be available at a deep discount which may warrant redesigning operations. Calculations need to be conducted to compare the cost to store products by dividing total rent by the number of pallet storage achievable. Depending on availability and pricing, the more economical choice could be the less expensive lower clear facility or the higher clear more expensive alternative.

Click here for our separate article on clear height.

Loading

Truck loading facilities is another criteria that requires specific consideration. Just because the warehouse has a dock or grade level overhead door does not mean it will work for a particular requirement. when understanding a client’s requirement for loading, the following must be considered:

  • What number of vehicles/containers need to be loaded/unloaded daily?
  • What is the maximum length of the containers and truck expected to be loading/unloading at the dock (over the road rigs are much longer than local trucks)?
  • At what level do these vehicles need to be unloaded? At grade, 2’, 4’, or other?
  • Will truck traffic require a staging area (an area for tractor-trailers to park while waiting for a loading door)?
  • Is there any requirement for side access to the containers or loads?
  • How heady is the product to be (un)loaded?
  • Will the loads need to be services by an overhead crane? If so, what lift capacity is required?
  • Do the loading doors require door shelters? See an example here sold by Grainger - Dock Shelter.

Loading at warehouse facilities comes in many different forms. Here are a few examples:

  • Grade Level
  • Semi Dock or Half Dock
  • Dock High
    •     Dock Well
    •     Dock Half Well
    •     Cross Dock

Grade Level Loading

Grade Level loading involves an overhead door at ground level. This type of loading often involves drive-in access and/or fork lift egress. There are many different sized doors to accomodate the expected size of trucks and loads.

Semi Dock Loading

Semi Dock, or Half Dock loading involved a 2’ height typically used by delivery trucks like FedEx or USPS. This type of loading can be achieved through either a true 2’ high building slab or a truck well excavated to the 2’ level.

Dock High Loading

Dock loading involves an access point for a container or trailer which is typically approximately 4’ from the ground level. Containers heights can vary slightly due to many factors, and this difference is usually accomodated by the use of a dock plate or dock leveller.

Like semi dock loading, dock level loading can be achieved by a truly elevated slab to 4’, or an excavated dock well.

Dock wells by design may cause a container to be at an unwanted incline once at the dock and may present difficulties for the fork lift operator to move heavy products in and out of the container. Therefore, the type of product and the nature of loading needs to be thoroughly understood. If, on the other hand, the length of the excavation allows for a full length/53’ container including the rear axles of the tractor, then this alleviates the concern of having a steep incline within the container when loading/unloading.

Some clients who require dock level loading when renting a warehouse will dismiss grade-level options without thinking twice. However, if adequate land exists, quality dock wells can be installed. Also, some loads are light enough that even a short dock well can still work if the incline in the trailer/container does not present a hazard to the fork lift being used for loading/unloading or the product being loaded/unloaded.

Click here for our separate article on dock high loading.

Click here for our separate article on dock wells.

Click here for our separate article on adding a dock well to an existing facility.

Click here for our separate article on exterior elevated docks.

Click here for our separate article depicting a side loading truck well.

Electrical

General warehousing does not typically require electrical service beyond that needed to operate an office area with HVAC. general warehouse lighting, and light-duty electrical plugs. However, many operations do require very specific electrical capacity in order to run the business. Be sure to know your needs before committing to a property as the installation of a heavy electrical service can be very expensive.

Click here for our separate article on heavy power.

Paved or Stabilized Yard

Designing and installing stabilization is very expensive. Consequently, paying a premium for property with existing surfaced yard may be worthwhile.  Also, the time required to engineer the project and meet local requirements for drainage and storm water retention can be excessive. 

It is important to understand local zoning and other requirements, since some areas doe not allow crushed concrete to keep down dust. These areas may require concrete instead.

Adding additional paving to an existing site will almost certainly require adding stormwater retention and/or a detention pond. This is often a surprise for property owners who think they can quickly and inexpensively add storage or parking by installing crushed concrete.

Click here for our separate article on paved or stabilized yard.

Rail Access

Having access to rail siding which is actually being services can be one of the most difficult criteria to meet. In Houston, Texas, for example, rail served property is becoming quite a commodity as old, antiquated siding is removed or replaced with new roadways and development. Additionally, rail providers like Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Burlington all have minimum requirements for the number of monthly rail cars and type of product in order to agree to service a property. These entities are slow-moving and generally not terribly motivated if the user is not a heavy user of their services.

Click here for our separate article on rail access.

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