Structural strength

Leading storage manufacturer APC offers a complete design and supply service for its clients to take the complexity out of the equation by ‘co-designing’ a solution with them. MHD finds out more.

The global demand in e-commerce is having a massive effect on consumption and is expected to continue its prevalence in Australia.  This is driving demand for increased automation in distribution centres as well as other essential markets.

The developers of these new automated warehouses and DC’s engage with systems integrators that provide a number of various automated processes and link these together to provide a turnkey solution. These systems often require a complex array of support structures, platforms and maintenance access systems to compliment and link together the sophisticated conveyors and robotic equipment.

Automation solutions often bring additional levels of complexity and require the introduction and use of platforms or mezzanines.

These platforms are used to provide the support structure that is typically integrated with goods to person automated equipment as well as for maintenance and personnel movement.

This automated equipment places high demands onto the supporting platform structures. These platforms must be designed to suit very specific static and dynamic loads as well as often dealing with varying degrees of vibration and extremely sensitive scanning and weighing equipment.

The platforms include bespoke access systems such as catwalks, stairs, ladders, step-overs and associated structures to ensure personnel are able to operate safely within and around the automation equipment and accessways.

Various flooring types are specified per application for the operating equipment it is supporting as well as integration with the steelwork substructure. Typically, these are steel grating types which can be forge welded or press locked. Timber varieties include various thicknesses and coatings which can be processed with anti-slip properties on the walking surface or even have technical materials applied to the underside, which assists to achieve the required lux requirements in the operator working environment.

There are also numerous complexities that are considered in the selection process in order to accommodate various concentrated and distributed loads, supporting steel member spans, floor penetrations for complex conveyor systems and robotic equipment. This equipment can be above or below the floor (or multi-tier) levels.

APC provide unique modular guard-railing solutions which are adaptable to suit the differing requirements for personnel and machine guarding.  Ensuring a safe working environment where equipment and personnel are working in close proximity to each other is paramount to the success and effectiveness of the modern distribution centre.

Australian standards and storage type classifications govern the selection of the flooring types in the designs. Sometimes, new designs are required to be developed, tested and approved for manufacture to meet the requirement of the unique overall solution and still meet these stringent local standards.

Sean Prosser, APC’s Sales Manager explains the co-design process “APC usually start with the set-up of client and in-house engineering teams and begin the design stages once the scope is finalised. During this stage the requirements of the system is matched with the structural requirements of the design.  Clash checks are a large part of the next stage where 3D models are shared between the engineers and extensive collaboration occurs between the two teams.  Once the models are approved the specific details are added to the model and detailed construction drawings are developed from this. This process ensures we develop the optimum design for our clients,”, Sean says.

This typically consists of a basic and detailed design with sub-elements including calculations of building connections & forces, steel member selection, connection details, 2D drawings, BOQ reports, fully detailed 3D models and detailed engineering report.

“We are highly qualified in our field with a team of experienced structural engineers enabling us to design and manufacture complex racking and support structures across a diverse range of industries,” Sean says.

There are many challenges faced during the whole design and engineering process as many systems have different specifications that need to be met.  Sean says APC need to take a number of input criteria into consideration including;

  • Flooring type
  • Fire systems
  • Workstation positions
  • Access and Egress requirements
  • Maintenance and Emergency pathways
  • Dynamic loads
  • Vibrational effects
  • Equipment point loads
  • Environmental factors e.g. wind load actions and seismic design

In order to provide the best ‘fit for purpose’ solution the APC team need to be proficient in their understanding of the full range of standards, regulations and codes that are applicable to the engineering, machinery, safety and construction industries.

“APC Project Management is another strong feature of the turnkey service we offer and this is underpinned by our ISO accreditations where we manage and execute the multiple disciplines of design, engineering, fabrication and on-site construction. Our accreditation to AS/NZ 4801:2001 and ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems ensures we implement the strongest levels of OHS on all sites that we operate on.

“APC proudly uses Australian Steel for its structures. Our clients benefit with stronger design & fabrication lead-times as well as platforms that are designed to strictly conform to Australian Standards and the Building Code of Australia,” Sean concludes.

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