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Special supplement for edition 4 (234)
October 2018

Do androids dream of electric sheds?

Agnieszka Zielińska

Do androids dream of electric sheds?
Tomasz Ogrodzki, a partner of SkyConcept

With smart systems, drones and mobile apps – a technological revolution is now underway on the warehouse real estate market. And those not in the race face obsolescence.

The latest technology must now be used at every stage of a warehouse project, including during its construction, its operations and when it is being leased and managed. The uses technology is put to range widely and the demand for innovation is continuing to rise, a trend that has been noted by both developers and tenants. “According to the PropTech 2018 report, which we have prepared with the editorial team of Eurobuild magazine, over 80 pct of managers are convinced that new technology will change their business,” says Tomasz Ogrodzki, a partner of SkyConcept. In his opinion, there are only benefits to be reaped from this, which range from optimising costs to managing assets more effectively.

Management by phone

Developers currently see the greatest opportunities in using technology to improve the efficiency of property management and to support marketing and sales. One example of such a system is the Eclipse CRM [Customer Relationship Management] app, which JLL has been using since 2017. The system gives agents instant access to a comprehensive database of warehouse space. The software uses geolocation services, which also helps with field work. “Imagine that you are an agent and you are with a client near a densely built-up industrial area. Using this app you can immediately show a potential tenant buildings with the currently available vacant space and then show them an online picture of the space inside the very same building,” explains Tomasz Ogrodzki

Staying ahead in the future

Intelligent systems can also be used to manage and monitor utilities, which is why modern warehouses are equipped with hi-tech systems to control water usage, and use energy-efficient air-conditioning and ventilation systems as well as lighting, heating and cooling systems that generate electricity savings throughout the entire building. In 2017 Segro began introducing a utility monitoring system, which it has now rolled out to all of its locations in Poland. “We use it to monitor electricity consumption online. It includes a maximum demand controller [a device that turns off non-essential systems during periods of high power usage] as well as gas meters, which we have piloted in a number of selected locations. I’d like to point out that this is the first comprehensive Polish system for metering utilities across scattered facilities. By setting up the system with a well- configured and properly protected server, users can view data from anywhere. This allows the utilities in all our buildings to be managed effectively at one time,” says Waldemar Witczak, a regional director at Segro.

LED lighting, video surveillance and alarms are now standard installations in warehouses, while computerised systems are now being used by architects at the design stage. “Warehouse developers around the world are increasingly building warehouses using BIM [Building Information Modelling]. This allows designers to quickly exchange information and uses computers to automate a lot of tasks,” explains Tomasz Ogrodzki.

With BIM, architects and other parties involved in a project can all work on the same 3D model. Future problems can be prevented by checking all technical aspects of a construction project in the virtual world before the heavy equipment even enters the building site.

The first Prologis logistics facility in Central and Eastern Europe to be designed with BIM will be a 10,000 sqm building in Prologis Park Budapest-Harbor in Hungary. The building will have insulated wall panels and highly efficient gas heaters, which should reduce heating costs by 30 pct. The warehouses will also be equipped with energy-saving LED lighting and large skylights, which together should help reduce electricity costs by 45 pct compared to the usual standard for lighting. Meanwhile, the water, gas and electricity consumption will be monitored by smart meters. As with all of Prologis’ developments, BREEAM certification is to be applied for with the intention of achieving a rating of ‘Very Good’. BREEAM and LEED certification have become the established standard for quality warehouse facilities, though only a few such centres in Poland have currently been certified. One that has is the Tesco distribution centre in Segro Logistics Park Poznań, Komorniki. Not only was the environmental sustainability of the building subjected to rigorous assessment during the certification, but also such aspects were examined as its facility management, its workplace comfort and any innovations used in its development.

Waldemar Witczak, a regional director at Segro

Benefits for tenants

For tenants, intelligent systems do not only reduce bills, but more importantly they mean convenience, giving them easy access to such information as the current electricity consumption and assistance in reducing its usage. “The key use of modern technology in warehousing is to help clients optimise their businesses allowing them to effectively use the space they rent as well as the external areas of the entire park. Intelligent technologies also help reduce operating costs,” says Waldemar Witczak from Segro.

According to Tomasz Ogrodzki, being able to control the operations of a building with an app is not only a more efficient way to manage it, but also benefits the tenants, who are given access to transparent information on such things as the current electricity consumption. Such an online utilities monitoring system with smart metering is used by Prologis. “By uploading data to the Rhino Scada web application, the system provides remote reading and control of utilities. We have recently successfully introduced Singu FM, which is an innovative platform for the facility and asset management of properties. And as part of the platform, we have also introduced the Singu Smart Security Desk (Singu SDD) module to automate entry and exit. The system allows business guests to be invited in, giving them notifications of when and where with a map showing where they are to enter the park. The Singu SDD also includes a carpooling service to meet tenants’ personal needs,” reveals Marta Glinka, the director and head of the property management department at Prologis.

The latest systems to be used in warehouses also include an advanced industrial monitoring system and RFID tags that allow vehicles to be identified without reading their licence plates. “The dock-in system, which only opens when a lorry has docked, is also worth mentioning. It allows cargo to be safely loaded and unloaded and also helps limit heat or cooling loss through opening the gate,” adds Marta Glinka.

Segro takes a similar approach in its centres, where it has installed an access control system that automatically reads licence plates. “This is particularly important for clients from sectors such as logistics, for whom time plays a key role. It provides a high level of security without limiting the traffic flow of employees and regular suppliers,” adds Waldemar Witczak, a regional director at Segro.

Marta Glinka, the director and head of the property management department at Prologis

Keeping watch

New technology has also found a role in building maintenance. One example is the use of drones to patrol an area and monitor the condition of roofs. The drones can also measure the weight of snow that has fallen on them. Another usage is for security. For example, developer 7R has installed a camera system with infrared motion sensors in two of its buildings. “This is a modern system that monitors traffic, helps prevent dangerous situations from arising, and can help resolve disputes when they do, such as, for example, when there has been a collision,” says Izabela Gajek, the director of real estate management at 7R. The company has a number of traffic management systems. For example, guests arriving by car are given bar-coded tickets when they arrive, and on leaving pay a parking fee based on the time they have spent on the site. “In order to maintain security at the entrance to the park, we also use a licence plate recognition system to automatically allow vehicles listed in our database to enter. Guests who are not recognised by the system must confirm their identity before leaving the premises,” says Izabela Gajek.

Warehouses without employees

It is the development of the internet of things [IoT] and artificial intelligence that is currently driving innovation in the warehouse sector. More and more robotics manufacturers are developing systems specifically for this segment. As a result, all the latest technical wonders can be seen in warehouses: automated storage systems and forklifts, internal transport systems, drones and virtual assistants. As warehouses become more automated ever decreasing levels of human intervention are required. In automated high-storage warehouses, forklift drivers have been replaced by robotic warehouse stackers that can place pallets on racks with a height of up to 40m. One such centre is Amica’s warehouse in Wrońki (north of Poznań), which can store up to 26,000 pallets but run by just one employee. “The instant handling of purchases, deliveries and courier services require impeccable logistics and supply chains, all of which come together in warehouses that have to keep up with the high expectations of the end-consumer,” claims Bartosz Dobrowolski, the founder of Proptech Poland. In his opinion, warehouse automation has been going on for a long time. “Systems based on blockchain are used to ensure transparency and secure information. Walmart is developing a project with IBM to safeguard the ‘end-to-end’ supply chain for its groceries. Automation and artificial intelligence are also being used on an increasing scale,” he adds.

Prologis Park Budapest-Harbor should be completed in Q1 2019

Demand for innovation

Technological progress has recently been so rapid that in order to keep up with the competition more and more companies are setting up specialist units, business incubators and accelerators for the development of such innovations. Raben is one logistics provider that has taken such a step in setting up its Genius Lab research and development department. “We have created a new research department in which we look at a broad range of innovations, including the optimising of everyday processes and the creation of new operating models,” comments Zbigniew Kępiński, the manager of Genius Lab. In his opinion, more R&D centres and departments are to be set up by companies in the logistics sector in order to maintain or give them the competitive advantage they need to survive. “In the future we will have to answer a lot of interesting questions. Is technology a threat to employment? What will work be like in a few years time? Will companies adapt to a rapidly changing world? We are living in very interesting times,” believes Tomasz Ogrodzki. ν

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