Multidisciplinary consulting engineering service provider WSP Industrial has focused on designing and engineering technologically advanced warehousing solutions that enable clients to save costs.
WSP Industrial warehousing department head Kobus de Villiers tells Engineering News that the company has been using building information modelling (BIM) to build warehouses virtually, taking into account the number, weight and perishability needs of the products that need storage before a design is approved for construction.
WSP does not install or construct the building, but offers consulting services to companies contracted to execute the company’s designs. De Villiers adds that the company has, over the past two years, designed BIM-applied warehouse sites throughout the country.
“. . . we are proceeding with additional developments on a new distribution warehouse for retailer Shoprite, in Cape Town, and a project for brewer SAB Miller, in Zambia. We will apply BIM to structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing, and refrigeration and insulation for both projects,” he explains.
De Villiers adds that BIM was applied to the previous three multidisciplinary projects on which the company worked. This includes warehousing for industrial and commercial property investment company Improvon Group in Johannesburg, and two warehouse sites for property investment and development company Zenprop, in Durban and Cape Town.
He says WSP Industrial applied the principles of BIM at Zenprop’s sites for refrigeration, insulation panelling and heating ventilation, and air conditioning before construction.
De Villiers maintains that what sets WSP Industrial apart from other companies offering the same services is its striving for innovation and supplying solutions that are on par with the global market.
He adds that the company plans to incorporate more innovative technologies into its designs, detailing that, in some of the company’s most recent projects, it has been able to motivate for the use of thicker insulation panelling, the harvesting of grey water at some of the sites and for the use of energy efficient lighting and natural lighting.
Further, he highlights that WSP Industrial’s current warehouse projects are in the preliminary planning stages. The pricing for these projects includes full photovoltaic panels on the roofs and the company is investigating light-emitting diode lighting and other options that could lead to cost savings.
Growth in Centralised Warehousing
De Villiers tells Engineering News that some South African retailers started centralising their warehousing about six years ago, adding that the sector is reaping the rewards of such centralisation, as the system has proven to be cost saving and more efficient.
He explains that centralisation has led to reduced transport costs and the development of products that simplify warehousing.
“In the past, a retailer would receive three trucks delivering products to a supermarket, where each truck would be delivering a single brand of products. We now see different brands distributing their products to a central warehouse, where the retailer takes over the distribution of all products of different brands as per the needs of every supermarket in one truck, which reduces costs and is more efficient,” he explains.
De Villiers states that this has also meant that WSP Industrial has had to work closely with its clients to be able to design solutions that are aligned to the client’s need.
“With our repeat clients, we like to think of ourselves as another department within the client’s business. We have placed ourselves as not only a service provider but also a strategic partner, where we become aware of the client’s challenges and source the best ways and products to solve them.”
He adds that the move towards centralised warehousing has also provided an opportunity for innovative products and solutions, citing the development of a storage product – the roll trailer – that was created about two years ago by a local manufacturer for use in storage and packing at supermarkets.
He describes the roll trailer as a “little cage on wheels”, adding that it allows for products to be packed in the cage at the warehouse, after which the cage is hauled into a delivery truck, offloaded at a supermarket and pushed around in aisles to pack the products on the racks of the supermarket.
“We have been fortunate to work with some of the big retailers, and we are part of that growth that results from this centralisation,” De Villiers notes, adding that the company has also designed warehousing solutions for warehouses outside South Africa, as some of its retailer clients have supermarkets in other Southern African countries.