Looking For A Warehouse? You Need To Take These Things Into Consideration

Many businesses, particularly smaller ones, and contractors do not have enough space at their own business premises to store and send out their products to customers and client, and so need to look for external warehousing companies to provide this valuable service. There can be an awful lot to think about when you are choosing a warehouse, as it may be one of your more costly expenses. In this article, we look at a few of the key things that you need to take into consideration before you sign a contract with a warehouse.

Questions to ask include:

1) Does it have enough space for your business needs? 

This, of course, is an absolute fundamental necessity. There is no point whatsoever in spending what a probably a significant amount of money on a space that is not fit for purpose.

You need to make sure that you can fit all of your products in there with enough space for any potential overfill. However, it is also important to make sure that it is not too big for you, as unused and empty space is not cost-effective for either you or the company providing the warehouse space.

You also need to think about the loading areas and whether there is enough space there. If you are having goods picked up and delivered via normal couriers, it is not so much of an issue, but if you are transporting goods that need an 18-wheeler, then you need to make sure that there is enough space for the trucks to enter the loading bays and move about as necessary. 

You also need to take into consideration your future and any possible plans for expanding your business or product ranges. Can they facilitate a growth in storage needs, or will you need to change warehouses? Remember the latter can be difficult, time consuming and costly.

2) Is the environment suitable? 

Not only do you have to consider whether there is enough space, but whether the space that is available is correct. Do you need an environment that is temperature controlled or needs low lighting to protect the goods? Many warehouses come with separate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units and it is vital that you find out who is responsible for making sure they are switched on or off as appropriate, and who is responsible for the upkeep of them – the tenant or the landlord. You also need to talk to the warehouse providers if you are storing potentially hazardous or chemical items or electrical ones. Discuss the floor load limitations – if your warehouse needs involve bulky goods or equipment, you may want to take into consideration how much weight the concrete slab that makes the foundation of the warehouse can handle without being damaged. Many warehouse owners can provide this information for you if you know to ask. Find out what happens if there is a power cut as well – does their insurance cover these costs or will you need to take out additional cover?

3) Is their shipping process efficient and straightforward?

If you are using them to ship out and manage an inventory of your products, make sure that their systems and processes are both efficient and straightforward. Give priority to those that already have an automated warehouse management system implemented, as it will most certainly run more efficiently. If you specify to your customers a wait time, you need to make sure that your warehousing company is fulfilling these; otherwise, you are going to slow down supply chains and potentially cost your business its reputation.

Make sure that they have enough staff on hand to properly handle and package your products before they are sent out, and that if the stock is running low, they have a process in place for letting you or your suppliers know so that you can plan accurately for any future customer demands

4) Is the location suitable? 

Where your warehouse is should be one of your most basic concerns. Its location will have a significant impact on the ease and efficiency with which your products can be accessed, transported and stored. You need to make sure that the warehouse that you choose is easy to access and find for pick up and delivery drivers (so not down country roads with no satnav access!) and is close to excellent transport routes such as shipping ports, railways and/or motorways. It is also crucial to check whether other people have access to the facility and whether there will be timing and access conflicts.

If you are a smaller business, you might want to consider a warehouse that is close to your primary customers or the headquarters of your company. If you are a larger company, perhaps working on a national scale, find a location that will make regional demand simple to manage. 

You also need to take into consideration future growth and expansion of the business, so keep both your short-term and long-term needs in mind. And regarding HVAC units and equipment weights, it’s also important to ensure any equipment you install does not affect the structural integrity and foundation of the warehouse.

For example, if you need to install bulky HVAC units, find out if there’s a platform you can use to distribute the weight evenly, especially if the installation is on the warehouse’s roof. You can consider solutions like Con-form Group HVAC platforms to ensure that the HVAC rests on uniquely designed platforms that will distribute the weight evenly on the roof.

5) Do they have a clear understanding of your products?

This goes hand in hand with the above. If you are selling fragile or new expensive items, are they aware of the need to be careful with the way that they handle and package them? If it is food or healthcare related products, are they aware of the conditions they need to be stored in, and the importance of checking for use by dates and rotating products by implementing the first in, first out system? Do your research on the 12 types of inventory for business so you can have a better idea of what you need to be looking for when it comes to inventory management.

6) Is it good value for money?

As we have mentioned before, it is likely to be one of your more significant business expenses, so it is vital that the warehouse offers excellent value for money. Before you settle on a particular site, make sure that you have visited several different places to see what they provide for the same price. Out of town warehouses are often a lot cheaper but are usually more challenging to get to, so you need to weigh up the pros and cons. It is also essential to know what is covered in the price so that you are not stung with extra fees later on for things such as insurance or parking.

5) Have they got a good reputation?

When we are looking for a service, we quite often seek out independent reviews and check the reputation of the business we are considering parting money with, and looking for a warehouse should be no exception. If you are in any industry-specific groups on social media, ask around in there and see where other people recommend. Check reviews on Google and Yell, bearing in mind that people don’t often leave good reviews, but bad service will be all over the internet! Check their reputation on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as well, as the company has the chance to address complaints on there.

6) How secure is the warehouse?

One of your primary concerns when looking for a warehouse should be how safe your products are, particularly if the space is accessible to others. Check what sort of security they offer – do they have CCTV or security guards monitoring the area? Discuss their protocols for things such as fires, floods and break ins, and what steps they will take to protect your goods from theft or natural causes.

It is also essential that all staff are trained and that all tools required to complete the task are supplied. From ladder platform of trade quality to DIY and home improvement products, these platforms allow you to work safely at any height required.

The perfect warehouse for your business will be determined by a broad range of factors, all of which need to be taken into account when choosing one. Make sure you visit all of the potential facilities and make sure that whoever provides you with your space is good at communicating with you when it comes to any issues and how they will meet your needs. Outsourcing your warehousing and fulfilment needs to someone else means that while someone else is dealing with the logistics of shipping your products out to your customers, you can focus on the important things:  building and growing your business.

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Dan Dunn
Executive Managing editor

Editor and Admin at MarkMeets since Nov 2012. Columnist, reviewer and entertainment writer and oversees all of the section's news, features and interviews. During his career, he has written for numerous magazines.

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