I’ve seen them before but mostly in ones and twos… travelling into London last week though, I saw legions of trucks and diggers from the train window, criss-crossing and levelling a vast landscape that looked like nothing so much as the surface of the moon: vast and overwhelming. And it was, as you might guess, the latest site for a new distribution hub: not only exceeding in scale anything our rural landscape has seen before, but rising from the ground faster than ever before too (at least for a building on that scale). I expect to see the finished structure when I travel out of London next month: topped off and operational in a few weeks, because it’s almost certainly being built using modular technologies. Because the seismic evolution of e-commerce and home delivery demands nothing less, and bricks, steel and mortar are no longer enough…not for a world that demands tomorrow’s buildings today.
The Need for Speed…and Volume
In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a supply chain crisis at the moment, with stock levels currently at their lowest in the UK since 1983. And it’s not just about truck drivers (or the lack of them) and Brexit (or the fact of it), not even milkshakes and chicken nuggets, which seem to have suffered particularly badly: no, the Confederation of British Industry (www.cbi.org.uk) pins the blame squarely on a lack of distribution facilities, which is placing the whole concept of “just in time” delivery in jeopardy. And existing facilities are suffering from a shortage of workers as well: causing Amazon to vote with its wallet, and offer warehouse workers a joining bonus of £1,000. The recruitment site Indeed reported the number of logistics firms offering joining bonuses to have increased in the UK by 66% between April and August, and in the meantime Nandos has closed forty-five “restaurants” due to a shortage of chicken wings…
Do we need to go on…we need more distribution hubs, and we need them yesterday.
That’s where modular technologies come into their own.
Modular Warehousing: A Segmented Approach
Adopting a segmented approach, modular warehousing “deconstructs” the traditional bricks and steel facility by reference to its range of essential functions, and then produces scalable, agile modules that can either be integrated with other units within the hub, or stand alone within the structure as part of its overall operations. The modules are essentially conceptual in character, easily incorporated into the construction plan, and capable of being produced remotely in environmentally controlled conditions before being assembled on site. Storage units can be created quickly closer to retail centres whenever necessary, and then disassembled for reincorporation into the central hub when they’re not.
As a result, multiple warehousing locations can function as though they were all part of a central distribution hub, even if they’re not: and central distribution hubs can be constructed more quickly too (30% more quickly to be precise), to higher specification, and with lower bottom-line costs.
That’s why I’m confidently expecting that lunar landscape outside London to be filled with a spanking new distribution hub when I get back on the train…modular construction has made it possible.
In our ever more connected world, supply chains are becoming more and more important: based on distribution hubs capable of meeting the needs of fast evolving markets, and flexible enough to match supply against local demand. That’s why Modular Construction is now so significant…meeting the requirements of modern economies in ways bricks and mortar never could.
Modulex Modular Buildings Plc (www.modulexglobal.com) is currently building the World’s largest Steel Modular Building Factory. It was established by Red Ribbon (www.redribbon.co) to harness the full potential of fast evolving technologies and deliver at pace to meet housing needs within global communities.