What happens in 61,000 square feet with offices, a showroom, 6,400 pallet locations all within a fully automated storage and retrieving system?
Blum’s new location at 6775 Maritz Drive, Mississauga, ON
Blum Canada Limited, a leading supplier of furniture hinges, runners and lift systems, is helping to pave the way for what Canada’s industrial buildings of the future may look like.
The 61,000 square foot building, which also includes offices and a showroom, contains 6,400 pallet locations within a fully automated storage and retrieving system. Because of the efficiencies created by automation, the facility’s footprint is one-quarter the size of a typical warehouse. While standing 80 feet in height it stores more inventory in far less ground space.
During construction in 2019, Blum Canada’s general manager Kevin Tratt told media that the new warehouse would increase the company’s storage capacity by about one third: “We have to prepare for the future, and since our success has been built on quality products and services, we’ve designed this new building with those needs in mind.
“We’ll have a much larger showroom to better showcase our product solutions and meet our customers ‘needs. And our new, automated warehouse will enable us to deliver products to customers across the country more efficiently.”
ADG Architectural Design Group Inc. was engaged in 2016 to bring the project to life, and Tony Trusevych travelled to Blum’s head office in Austria where he witnessed automated warehouses in action. “A staff member would input an order on his computer pad, and inside the warehouse a picking machine riding a rail system would use lasers to locate the appropriate pallets,” he recalls. “A conveyor took the pallets to employees in a picking station, who then loaded the products for shipment. It was brilliant.”
Greyson Construction Limited was engaged early in the process and helped with the site evaluation, design development, value engineering, and budgeting. The project first required the construction of a new road for the five-acre building site. Hannigan Engineering Limited then determined the size and thickness of the base slab that would be required to support the new facility.
Eric Johnson, project manager for Greyson, says of the two-foot thick slab, “The pour was a challenge: we had to very carefully place the reinforcing steel, because the racking system would be attached to the slab with 2,000 anchors, and each of these anchors had to penetrate the concrete, not the rebar.”
Containers of parts for the racking system were shipped from Germany and assembled over a three-month period beginning in July of 2019. Cranes tilted the completed structure vertically, and Greyson then built the warehouse around it, along with the showroom and offices.
This type of facility provided unique benefits from a construction viewpoint. “The racking is the structure, so there was no need for structural columns, only insulated metal panels,” says Johnson. Similarly, the roof deck is rack-supported, eliminating the need for OWSJ and framing for the steel deck. Moreover, lighting requirements in the warehouse were confined to the bottom of the three aisles, and heat would be kept at 15 degrees Celsius, requiring one forced-air gas-furnace at one end of the warehouse with a duct system and fans in the middle, and an exhaust system at the other end of the facility.
As utilitarian as all these elements were, Trusevych says the project contained many opportunities for architectural expression. “Since the hinge is a key Blum product, I used the hinge as a guiding principle for the exterior office design. A vertical slab 25 feet high angled over to form the roof and cantilevered about 15 feet for shading purposes – and created a hinge appearance on a grand scale.
“We gave the building façade a European cabinet look thanks to aluminum composite panels for the office area and the insulated panels on the warehouse, and we also played with colours. The entire facility is white at both ends and black in the middle, which helps reduce the massing.” Large carbon fibre fins added architectural interest and also provided vertical shading.
A special landscaped area on the corner of the site was created as a focus of visual interest. “The patio walkout and the balcony of the facility both face this area, which acts as an oasis for staff and visitors and is also a buffer between them and an adjacent Wal-Mart distribution centre,” Trusevych says.
Blum will move into the new facility early December, Trusevych concludes. “It really is an efficient use of space and something that boosts productivity. I have no doubt that the automated warehouses will become common in Canada over time.”
- Address: 6775 Maritz Drive, Mississauga, ON
- Owner/developer: Blum Canada Limited
- Architect: ADG Architectural Design Group Inc.
- General contractor: Greyson Construction Limited
- Structural: Hannigan Engineering Limited
- ASRS/automation/conveyors: Dematic
- Racking: SSI Schaefer Systems International Ltd.
- Total size: 61,000 square feet
- Total cost: n/a