Big box thinking for logistics: Cleaning the new mega warehouses

Big box thinking for logistics: Cleaning the new mega warehouses

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Across the UK vast mega warehouses are being built at a record pace to support the surging growth of online shopping. But with many facilities comprising floorspace more than twice the size of London’s Hyde Park[1], maintaining facilities can present a sizeable challenge and require ‘big box thinking’ when it comes to cleaning and FM strategies.

In 2020 alone, a total of 49 ‘super-sheds’ were constructed, weighing in with an area equivalent to 191 football pitches, or 14.7m square feet[2]. While research by estate agent Knight Frank reveals nearly 37m square feet (3.4m square metres) of warehouse space is slated for construction in 2021, up from 23m square feet the previous year and 21 metres in 2019[3].

The architecture trend towards the construction of large-scale warehouses has prompted a major re-think when it comes to managing facilities. While the using complexities remain – from high volumes of traffic to fast-paced operations, unpredictable daily peaks and troughs in activity and ensuring preparedness for seasonal demands – all must be achieved at a far larger scale than ever previously. 

So, what can organisations and warehouse managers do to optimise the performance of their premises and ensure hygiene standards are maintained?

Quality at scale

In multi-million square feet facilities achieving efficiencies in cleaning practices, while not comprising on quality, is the ultimate goal for logistics providers. It is in this regard that investing in the appropriate innovation, and deploying the latest systems and technology, can add great value.

When used as a supplement to highly skilled team of operatives, the latest innovative systems and technology can help deliver full staffing, and compliance with health, safety, and environmental legislation in complex environments. What’s more, such solutions will identify cleaners from other contracts who can provide additional labour to meet seasonal peaks and respond to any planned or unplanned absences.

While the collection of true cleaning performance data from such solutions can elevate and standardise the health and cleanliness of all properties and ensure a higher level of consistency, and total transparency.

In warehousing and fulfilment industries the efficiencies and rise in standards that can be gained through such solutions can be a true differentiator, particularly as Britain’s supply chain continues to be strained by driver shortages, rising fuel costs and staffing deficiencies, leaving the sector economically reeling.

Consistent cleaning

Maintaining consistent levels of cleanliness in busy, highly populated warehouses facilities can be demanding, even more so given the growing scale of today’s facilities. Add to the mix, the volume of human and material movement combined with the risk of spills and accidents, and the challenge can become even greater for even the most competent cleaning operatives.

To meet these challenges, cleaning protocols must be highly tailored to any facility’s needs, and delivered based upon need and level of use, occupancy rates, and areas identified as requiring cleaning due to high usage or levels of footfall, rather than by simply following standard, routine cleaning schedules.

To better optimise staff scheduling and cleaning regimes, leading edge footfall analytics and data insights can determine building occupancy levels at all times. With insight into a business’s foot traffic trends, cleaning teams can be better equipped to match staff and resource supply with customer and operation demands.

By creating a detailed profile of operational activity against cleaning needs, cleaning resource and operations become much more closely mapped to the nuances of the operational requirements at each building. Such an approach can drive greater efficiencies, and, in turn, help achieve cost reductions in logistics management

Agile service models

The constantly changing nature of warehouse operations requires an equally adaptive facilities strategy. Cleaning and hygiene service models must incorporate in-built flexibility to react to daily changes in site activity, as well as the inevitable seasonal peaks in demand and fluctuations in occupancy levels.

While technology can add great value, it is such scalability that can truly deliver high standards of cleaning that fit around operational requirements, ensuring your business runs smoothly and efficiently without costly disruptions to schedules.

At SBFM we work with a multitude of logistics and distribution clients on a national basis, delivering highly tailored and flexible service models to suit all warehouse environments.

To find out how SBFM can drive your distribution centre cleaning strategy forward, contact us today or visit our Logistics and Distribution cleaning page.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/aug/12/warehouses-the-latest-boom-in-the-uk-real-estate-sector

[2] https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-9945135/Mega-warehouses-pop-UK-cater-online-shopping-boom.html

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/aug/12/warehouses-the-latest-boom-in-the-uk-real-estate-sector