Shortages of raw materials, the pandemic and disrupted supply chains have increased the need for security. According to a study by the Herchenbach Supply Chain Institute, 37% of companies have increased their safety stocks. Companies that were able simultaneously to increase security and reduce cost pressure by renting flexible storage solutions were at an advantage. Since uncertainties in the supply chain and changes in goods streams are now the new normal, storage solutions that can be flexibly adapted to the respective requirements are also particularly useful.
The six key warehouse types – which one is best for your company?
A warehouse can be a room or an open-air area. Raw materials, semi-finished products, goods or merchandise are collected in the warehouse. The flow of materials is deliberately interrupted to create or re-combine stocks. How long the material remains in the warehouse depends on the warehouse’s function. Short turnover times are just as much an option as long-term stockpiling. Warehouses are used in different phases of production and can essentially become a logistics centre at times.
Every warehouse item has different storage requirements. So choosing the right building is crucial. Weatherproof building material can be stored in the open air or under a simple canopy. Cold storage offers protection from weather and theft, while insulated storage provides optimal conditions for temperature-sensitive goods, for example from the food industry.
If the warehouse is closely connected to production as a procurement warehouse or buffer storage, its spatial links to production are crucial. For a transshipment or distribution centre, proximity to important transport arteries such as motorways or railway lines, as well as proximity to the customer, for example on the last mile, play a decisive role.
An overview of the key warehouse types
1. Procurement or production warehouses
Procurement or production warehouses serve as a buffer. Unlike intermediate or buffer storage, however, they are not situated within the production process, but are ahead of production in terms of time. They are located close to the production site.
The aim of procurement and production warehouses is to always have sufficient material available to ensure a smooth production process. Companies are then independent from just-in-time deliveries and disruptions in the supply chain. Even though larger procurement and production warehouses are a cost factor, they offer better protection to companies against production losses due to material shortages. As raw materials are stored in the procurement and production warehouses, a lower level of theft protection is usually necessary. In companies that produce high-quality and safety-relevant goods, procurement or production warehouses provide a suitable place to inspect the quality of delivered goods before they go into production.
2. Intermediate or buffer storage
Intermediate or buffer storage is used within both production and distribution processes. They are always useful when upstream and downstream process stages run at different speeds.
The aim is to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible and to provide a sufficient quantity of goods for the next production stage or distribution in the shortest possible time. This avoids costs that would arise from a delay in production, commissioning or delivery. Intermediate storage within the production process is situated very close to the production line. Warehouses can be positioned at shipping docks as part of the distribution process.
3. Transhipment or transit warehouse
Quick in, quick out: that's what transshipment warehouses are all about. Raw materials, goods or merchandise are only brought there to be loaded from one means of transport to another, for example from a lorry to a van. They are used, for example, by parcel services or in the food trade. Goods from one or more sources are transported to the transshipment warehouse and distributed directly to new vehicles for onward transport.
Cross-docking stations are a particularly efficient form of transshipment warehouse. Trucks can pull up at special docks that are also designed for swap bodies. The goods are unloaded manually or automatically and brought to the gates on conveyor belts, where vans are already waiting.
An urban delivery hub allows lightweight cross-docking stations to be set up at low cost. These flexible building solutions are particularly attractive for logistics service providers who operate on the ‘last mile’, for example as food companies or parcel services.
4. Order picking warehouse
The easier the goods are to access, the better. In the order picking warehouse, the goods for an order are assembled manually or automatically from partial quantities – and as efficiently as possible. The pickers have access to goods and products and take the exact quantity needed for the respective order.
Dispatch centres frequently use order picking warehouses. There, the desired products are packed and shipped in accordance with the customers' order lists. A deliberate delay in dispatch is possible to allow various individual deliveries to be combined into one.
5. Distribution centres, delivery or distribution warehouses
Distribution warehouses (also known as delivery warehouses or distributing stores) are used after the production stage. They can also be located at the production site. Optimal links to the delivery point, to customers and business partners, branches or directly to the end customer are, however, much more decisive.
Theft protection is more important for distribution warehouses than in other areas. It not only stores finished products, which have a higher value than raw goods. The goods and merchandise are usually also already packed and picked. This allows them to be taken away for transport more quickly.
6. Storage warehouses
Storage warehouses are characterised by a low turnover of goods. Similar to a buffer storage, they serve to balance out fluctuations in demand. They are mainly used when a delivery period or the price of a raw material or commodity is expected to be subject to strong fluctuations.
If goods are cheap at a certain time, storage warehouses allow companies to store goods before the price rises again. However, the costs of storage must be offset against these savings.
Stockpiles can also be created when a company is dependent on a raw material or product and a continuous supply cannot be guaranteed. Then storage warehouses serve to bridge the time until the next delivery.
A characteristic feature of storage warehouses is that comparatively few product types are stored there. Seasonal fluctuations in demand can also be balanced out with storage warehouses.
Lightweight warehouses – in conclusion
Thanks to a flexible modular system, lightweight warehouses can be optimally configured to different storage needs. Depending on the wall cladding, with trapezoidal sheet metal or insulated panels, robust goods can be stored just as well as temperature-sensitive goods. The roof, made from robust industrial PVC, can have an additional textile layer as protection against condensation water, for example for the packaging industry.
With different gate and dock options, the building can be optimally adapted to the warehouse’s operational processes. Lightweight cross-docking stations, for example at an urban delivery hub, are also possible. If storage needs or merchandise routes change, the mobile lightweight building can be quickly dismantled and reassembled at another location.