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The Future of Logistics Asset Optimisation

23/05/2024

In recent years, the logistics sector has experienced a wave of transformation fuelled by favourable trends and technological advancements. These shifts are still gaining momentum today. 

During and after the pandemic, the logistics industry saw significant growth. But now, things are starting to normalise. E-commerce continues to be a major driver, pushing demand higher. Manufacturers are getting smarter, they’re adopting near-shoring strategies which means moving production closer to where consumers are. This is partly because of supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, but also because offshore advantages are shrinking, transportation costs are rising and due to geopolitical uncertainties, there is now a need for supply chain transparency. 

Recent global economic headwinds, like interest rates and inflation, are interfering with the short-term outlook. Still, the long-term prospects for the logistics sector remain positive. As the industry gets more sophisticated, building owners need a strategic approach to asset management. That means keeping up with changing occupier needs and dealing with increased regulatory requirements. 

Industrial WArehouse

Top Challenges for Asset Managers

In the dynamic world of logistics asset management, industry leaders face critical hurdles to ensure sustainable growth and competitiveness. As they optimise portfolios and adapt to evolving market demands, several key challenges come to the forefront: 

  1. Sustainability Compliance and Emissions Management: With environmental regulations tightening and stakeholder expectations rising, asset managers prioritise adherence to sustainability standards. Managing Scope 3 emissions is a top concern, especially given the logistics sector’s substantial carbon footprint. 

  2. Financial Constraints for Infrastructure Upgrades: Retrofitting outdated assets is essential for staying competitive. However, limited financial resources can hinder necessary upgrades, potentially leaving asset managers at a disadvantage. 

  3. Tenant Retention and Community Building: Fostering long-term tenant relationships is critical. Creating a sense of community across diverse portfolios enhances tenant satisfaction and stability. 

  4. Technology Adoption: Embracing innovations like AI, automation, and data analytics improves operational efficiency. Integrating these technologies into existing infrastructure requires careful planning and investment. 

Strategic foresight, investment prioritisation, and proactive stakeholder engagement are essential for asset managers navigating this complex landscape. Their delicate balance between regulatory compliance, financial optimisation, tenant relationships, and technological advancements will drive sustainable growth. 

Changing Trends

In 2010, logistics management focused on supply chain optimisation, labour availability, globalisation, warehouse consolidation, and outsourcing. Fast-forward to 2024, and the landscape has transformed.  

  1. Cost Mitigation: Minimising expenses is paramount amid economic uncertainty. 

  2. Automation and Technology: Workforce optimisation through robotics and AI addresses labour shortages. 

  3. Supply Chain Resilience: Adaptable chains withstand disruptions like geopolitical tensions. 

  4. Sustainability: Environmentally responsible practices, including renewable energy, take centre stage. 

  5. In-House Technology Investments: Outsourcing gives way to enhancing operational efficiency. 

Adaptation to these trends is crucial for industry competitiveness. 

Addressing ESG Risk and Opportunity

Warehouse Logistics

ESG considerations are increasingly vital in logistics. Legislative changes and corporate commitments drive this trend. While real estate contributes minimally to occupiers’ emissions, site selection impacts transport costs and emissions. Asset managers address ESG risks by understanding tenant objectives, enabling relocation, and promoting sustainability. Social value gains importance, despite location challenges. Custom solutions, including supply chain optimisation and smart technology, enhance ESG credentials.  

Addressing The Cost Conundrum and Maximising Value

Amid structural changes, businesses face cyclical pressures related to financial discipline and capital expenditure. In previous cycles, capital works were easier due to compressed capitalisation rates, allowing write-offs against asset value. However, today’s asset owners encounter a reverse pattern: rising operating expenses alongside the need for significant capital investments amid costly debt and falling asset values. Rising rents provide some relief but don’t fully offset value decline. The cost of debt has risen by 350-400 basis points, with capital and operational costs increasing by 20-25% and 10-20%, respectively. Despite a 37% average rise in prime rents in Europe over five years, capitalisation rates in major markets have softened by 126 basis points since Q1 2022. Postponing capital expenditure risks reactive management. A forward-looking approach, including smart metering and green space upgrades, demonstrates commitment to asset relevance and market competitiveness. Asset owners must prioritise proactive investments to maintain value and efficiency amidst changing dynamics. 

How can we Optimise an Industrial Asset and Maximise its Value?

In today's landscape, optimising assets goes beyond traditional methods. From LED lighting to advanced AI integration, many levers are available to enhance efficiency and sustainability.  

Incorporating LED lighting, climate control, AI and Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems/Autonomous Mobile Robots can streamline operations and reduce energy consumption. Innovative lease structures, such as green leasing and roof leases for solar installations, facilitate collaboration and risk-sharing between landlords and tenants, promoting sustainability initiatives. Emphasising ESG factors in industrial assets can also boost customer satisfaction. Initiatives like onsite childcare facilities, green landscaping, quality of office space, promoting recycling, co-investing with tenants in green initiatives, and using eco-friendly building materials contribute to a positive customer experience. Likewise, engaging with the local community through events, charity initiatives, and social responsibility in supply chains fosters goodwill and strengthens relationships, benefiting both the industrial asset and its surroundings. Implementing fossil-free and fully electric options, installing batteries for energy storage, and introducing smart metering systems align with ESG principles and reduce environmental impact. 

Robotic arm in Industrial warehouse

When building owners and operators implement these strategies effectively, they not only improve operational efficiency but also play a role in creating a more sustainable and socially responsible future. Looking ahead, successful asset optimisation relies on transparent collaboration between owners and occupiers. Leveraging technology, enhancing building management practices, and addressing sustainability concerns are key steps to stay aligned with global market trends. 

Given the challenging operating environment, logistics asset owners face a critical task. Rigorous analysis and strategic planning are essential. Not all assets will remain viable, so portfolio restructuring becomes necessary. Each building demands customised maintenance and innovation plans to stay relevant. Investing in technology and sustainability is key. Taking action is vital for staying competitive and innovative in this ever-evolving landscape. 

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