A ground-breaking warehouse and distribution complex being built in Suffolk is breaking all the traditional ‘norms’ – it has been designed specifically to meet the needs of e-commerce, or online shopping.
The Port One Logistics Park is situated immediately next to the A14, the major road which links the Port of Felixstowe with the UK’s major centres of population.
Developer Curzon de Vere identified that most e-commerce activities are being conducted in warehouses and distribution centres that were designed and built for an entirely different purpose – many operators are experiencing inefficiencies and high costs as a result. By living with such compromises, they are simply not getting the best out of their operations.
The Port One Logistics Park is Suffolk’s only built-to-suit development aimed squarely at the e-commerce sector. With leases agreed and planning approved, Anglia Building Services Limited has commenced on the first phase of the 60-acre site. Three units will be constructed within the next year.
The first unit, of 143,000 sq ft, has been designed for Ipswich-based FDS Corporation Limited, a Chinese fulfilment house operator which was quick to see the advantages of the ‘Port One’ location – Junction 52 of the A14 at Great Blakenham, and a short distance from the Port of Felixstowe. FDS General Manager Sheng Li said: “We are really pleased to be taking up this opportunity. The past three years has shown us how well our Suffolk location works for us and our growth has given us the confidence to look at a new facility.”
FDS chose another Suffolk company for its solutions architecture – ports and logistics solutions specialist Murray Gibson Associates Ltd, offering more than 30 years’ supply chain experience.
“Everything about the client and the site has been exceptional,” says Murray Gibson. “It is very rarely that you get the opportunity of a completely clean sheet of paper on which to design an operation that not only exceeds the client’s original brief, but also ticks so many of the desirable supply chain features that this site in particular offers. Having perfected the internal layout and process flows, it was literally a case of wrapping the building around it. For once, it was designed from the inside out.”
A fulfilment house differs from conventional warehouses in its use of the ‘cube’ of the building rather than just focussing on the floor area, says Mr Gibson. “This threedimensional approach has enabled us to achieve a density of over 32,000 pallets of storage, nine-high with semi-automated locating.”
Online shopping, or e-commerce to give it its correct name, is becoming the preferred choice for many of us. It is predicted that 20% of UK consumer purchases will be online by the end of 2019, and that is set to increase to 25% by 2023. The UK is the leading country in Europe for its online shopping – and this is a phenomenon that has come from nowhere in less than 15 years.
“Behind the scenes, nothing short of a mini-revolution has taken place, largely unseen, that ensures our online purchases arrive where we want them and when, leaving us to get on with our busy lives,” says Mr Gibson.
“By cutting out multiple distribution centres and stores and delivering direct to the consumer, retailing is now embedded in the processes that enable us to buy products on our computer, tablet or smart phone. Orders are picked, labelled and marshalled for dispatch by courier and delivery companies to our chosen destination, offering an ever-widening number of options to suit our individual lifestyles.”
Further Growth at Port One
Other phases of development at Port One Logistics Park will provide additional buildings of between 50,000 and 700,000 sq ft. They will follow similar design principles, assisted by planning consent for building heights of over 20 metres. Easy access to both east and westbound carriageways of the A14 are key feature of the site, which will be operational 24/7.
“Port One Logistics Park enters the market in exactly the right place and at the right time,” says Mr Gibson. “According to industry analysts Retail Economics, and demonstrated at this year’s United Kingdom Warehousing Association national conference, a further 44 million sq ft of warehouse space needs to be built in the UK by the end of 2021 – just to meet the demands of the online retail sector.”