Design Considerations for Industrial and Warehouse Facilities
Updated: Feb 18
Over the past year, individuals around the world have gained an understanding of the hard work from those behind the scenes of the facilities that make up our country’s supply chain.
In a year that’s presented tremendous obstacles and challenges amidst the pandemic, one area of business was never able to shut their doors. Industrial and manufacturing facilities, for the most part, have remained open to help people continue receiving goods.
However, the individuals working in these facilities aren’t immune to the struggles of the pandemic, as large numbers of employees in distribution and manufacturing have been among the roughly 7.8 million in the United States to contract the coronavirus.
While following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is a strong way to start preventing against the spread of the coronavirus, there are systems changes that can benefit industrial and manufacturing settings that can provide overall benefits to their facilities.
Manufacturing and distribution facilities are large drivers of our country’s economy and losing staff has hurt their ability to produce.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the industry contributed $2.05 trillion to the United States economy in the second quarter of 2020, which accounted for 10.5% of the economy. Further, every $1.00 spent on manufacturing contributes $2.74 to the economy.
With 12.2 million Americans working on manufacturing lines, it’s important to make considerations to allow these individuals to be as safe as possible on the job.
Upgrading Technology Allows for a Continued, Strong Workflow in and away from the Factory
While the manufacturing industry will always be supported by their boots on the ground employees, some jobs within the field can be completed away from the factory, with the help of technological upgrades.
According to McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, utilizing advanced planning including analytics and artificial intelligence helps keep a facility flexible and responsive. This is going to be a crucial part of transitioning facilities into the future.
This also helps the facility streamline operations by creating a stronger forecast for future needs, thus being able to best suit staff for a job.
However, in order to acquire this information for any analytics and artificial intelligence, it's important to consider the modernity and efficiency of a data center. In order to best gather and thus utilize information in the planning process, smart technology will be implemented to help the process go according to plan.
It's also important to consider the facility's current wireless capabilities heading into the future. With many systems moving towards wireless functionality, it's important for owners to make sure their network is up to the test, according to Control Engineering.
Touchless Fixtures Allow for Even Safer Sanitation
As we've learned, there's an abundance of disease transmission in high-touch spaces. While handwashing is key to protecting ourselves against disease contraction; this can be tricky when so many of us are reaching for a faucet and soap dispenser!
While it does require some upfront costs, now is as good of a time as any for manufacturing facilities to make the leap to installing building-wide touchless fixtures.
“For the past four to five months, touchless solutions, including water coolers and dispensers, have absolutely become the most important consideration in facilities management,” Michael Goldman, President of Aquaverve, a supplier of water and filtration solutions, said to Daniel Litwin of Market Scale.
"The shift to touchless makes sense even beyond the pandemic, as touchless coolers create less cross-contamination, and as a result, a healthier workplace environment."
In essence, removing a high-touch fixture can help limit the number of opportunities that contribute to disease transfer.
Reconsidering the Air Flow to Maximize Health and Efficiency
While manufacturing facilities are often large, air volume environments that allow for widespread airflow, there's still a need to better mitigate the risk of disease transmission.
Since the start of the virus, air quality is something more clients are more carefully considering under a closer lens, especially as we learn more about airborne viral transmission. One investment that could be worthwhile to prevent spread is industrial quality air purification units.
Further, making upgrades to air filters around the building is something that the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends in their Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic document shared in the aftermath of the initial virus outbreak in the United States.
Especially in buildings with a large occupant density, making the upgrade can go a long way. Utilizing units with air filters rated MERV 12 or above make for the highest level of contaminant removal capabilities, though MERV 8 through 11 filters also have strong abilities for filtration and removal.
Contacting an Engineer for an Evaluation Key to Making Upgrades Effective, Efficient
Numerous solutions exist to help industrial facilities keep their surrounding air as clean as possible and help reduce the risk of disease transmission, but none are as effective as having an engineer provide a review of the building’s systems.
With an evaluation from an engineer, owners can get the best advice about what parts of their facilities need consideration for renovation, what requires maintenance, and how the owner can save costs in the process while providing a safe work environment for their employees.
Joining our firm by way of the University of Cincinnati, Mike Ferrante is one of the members of our mechanical engineering team. Since starting with Tec, much of Mike's workload has been devoted to municipal, recreation and park projects, in addition to administrative, office and commercial buildings.
After learning about a potential career in consulting engineering and honing in his strong skills in science and mathematics, Mike found a comfortable fit at Tec Inc.