Coming soon to a warehouse near you: automation and 3D printing

Technology to drive new efficiencies in industrial warehouses.

Technology will deliver new efficiencies to Perth’s industrial property market at the same time as the sector seeks to accommodate a new generation of businesses, a Colliers International presentation was told.

Speaking at an industrial market update, Colliers International Director Valuations and Advisory Services John Del Dosso singled out automation in warehouses and 3D printing in manufacturing as two innovations that would lower future space requirements and also employment in the sector.

“Automation will lower demand for industrial space with smaller, more efficient warehouses doing the work of the large facilities that now service retailers,” Mr Del Dosso said.

“The days of building big sheds where trucks come in and out is coming to an end and in the next decade we may see ten sheds consolidate into two and as they become more modern and technology-based.”

Mr Del Dosso said warehousing would continue to be driven by retail but not just as storage to supply stores and the arrival soon of Amazon’s first distribution centre in Australia would have a major impact.

“The move toward dispatching internet orders will be a key driving force, shaping the new space requirement with artificial intelligence and automation tracking goods and assembling orders far more efficiently,” he said.

“Drones are already being used to count and monitor inventory delivery and we can also expect to see the warehouse equivalent of Airbnb with more high-tech warehouses servicing multiple users.”

According to estimates by Nielsen and Citigroup, Amazon’s sales in Australia are valued between $500 and $700 million and in five years, that could grow to 14 per cent of all online sales and 1.1 per cent of Australia’s total retail turnover, or around $4 billion.

Mr Del Dosso told the industry gathering that 3D printing was advancing quickly with new composite materials dramatically expanding the product range.

“Printing cells will be installed in warehouses, adding a production dimension to storage activity that is close to the market,” he said.

While technology would play a bigger role in the future, Mr Del Dosso said Perth’s industrial market was still dealing with the legacy of the mining downturn with high vacancies and falling rents and land values across industrial suburbs.

“The upside in this challenging market is there are great buying and leasing opportunities,” he said.

“I can’t remember when you could pay $50 per square metre for an old shed in Welshpool.

“If you are in a start-up business, this is a great time.”

According to Colliers research, Perth’s industrial market is close to the bottom of its cycle with spare capacity and lack of demand remaining for the short-term and few new developments in the past two years.

“There’s a lot of underutilised land in Perth’s inner middle ring and across Perth, a lot of industrial property is old,” Mr Del Dosso said.

“Future redevelopments will see the transformation of remnant industrial markets including Belmont and South Guildford into modern precincts like Osborne Park which has retail, office, showrooms and in the next twenty years, residential as well.”

High Wycombe, Forrestfield, Southern River, Hazelmere, Bullsbrook, Maddington and Kenwick were identified as Perth’s up-and-coming industrial precincts.


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