Somewhere along the line, mezzanine floors got a whole lot more complicated than the simple steel structures they used to be. A key reason for this is the continuing trend to automate logistics, because automated kit has some very specific – and demanding – requirements.
Geoff Green, Sales Director UK for MiTek Mezzanine Systems
Firstly, automated equipment can be very heavy – especially systems storing and transporting pallet loads rather than totes. This means that mezzanines supporting equipment such as automated mobile robots and robotic picking machines need to be designed in a way that balances exceptional strength with the most cost-effective construction. Our own Mezzanine7, for example, is up to 7 times stronger than a standard mezzanine, accommodating point loads of over 2 tonnes, compared to around 600kg for a traditional mezzanine floor.
Strength is not the only requirement, however. Automated systems also need stability, so deflection/vibration resistance is a key factor. Many types of automated equipment – such as robots, optical scanners and check-weighing devices – are highly sensitive and require very low levels of vibration in order to operate reliably.
The trend to automate in recent years has been fuelled by a combination of labour shortages and e-commerce growth. Although the combined effect on labour availability of an economic downturn (increasing the supply) and Brexit (reducing the supply) is unclear, there is much less uncertainty about the trajectory of e-com. The effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on retail consumer behaviour is plain to see: according to the Office for National Statistics, e-com volumes in June accounted for almost 32% of all sales, compared to 20% in February. With no vaccine available, it is unlikely that e-com sales will fall back to pre-Covid levels any time soon.
Automation to accelerate
E-com’s requirement for greater fulfilment footprint for single-item picking and returns handling makes automation the ideal solution, while also minimising the risk that local Covid-19 outbreaks pose to warehouse capacity. So, the trend to automate is likely to accelerate with e-com's growth. Research and consulting firm, Frost & Sullivan, predict in their June 2020 report that the global warehouse automation market will almost double in size, from $14 billion in 2019 to over $27 billion by 2025.
Since its origins almost 35 years ago, MiTek Mezzanine Systems has completed over 10,000 installations worldwide – including projects for blue-chip brands such as Amazon, ASDA, DHL, DPD, H&M, Lidl, Mercedes, Rolls Royce, Tesco, The Hut Group and Toyota. On the acquisition of Mezzanine International by MiTek in 2017, our organisation became the first global mezzanine supplier. This secured greater capacity to handle very large and complex projects; economies of scale; enhanced access to the latest technologies through shared investment in R&D; and a wider, more unified service network. Our UK and European operations rebranded to MiTek Mezzanine Systems in February 2020 but comprise the same, experienced team.
Speed to market
Global scale has brought important benefits in terms of agility and procurement, enabling greater speed to market. The faster a mezzanine project can be delivered, the sooner the customer can profit from their investment and gain competitive advantage – a key requirement in today's challenging retail environment.