Features

Logistics property for a new era

LOGOS has built a strong reputation for its logistics property developments over the past decade. MHD talks with two of its Australian leaders about its success, industry trends, and what investors and tenants want in a new era for logistics and supply chain facilities.

LOGOS started 10 years ago as a fund management platform for international capital partners. According to Darren Searle, Head of Australia and New Zealand for LOGOS, its founders and Managing Directors, John Marsh, Trent Iliffe and Stephen Hawkins, had strong backgrounds in the industrial investment and development sector, and focused LOGOS’s funds management strategy on what they knew best: logistics real estate.

“They identified a niche in the market for a pure play operator to focus only on logistics real estate,” Darren says. “We don’t mix it up – we stick to our bread and butter. And that has meant we have expanded in a relatively unique way discerningly focused on Asia and the north-south supply chain route connecting that region down through Australia.”

By managing their capital partners’ funds through industrial real estate development, LOGOS has positioned itself as the medium through which property investment opportunities are matched with high value and innovative customers. “We are the gel in the middle that allows those two groups to work together – one as owner and one as occupier,” Darren says.

A DECADE OF TRANSFORMATION

“What has happened in the past decade in warehousing is a real drive towards automation,” Darren says. “That automation takes pressure off labour certainty and labour cost considerations; and in dense urban Asia Pacific markets is the only way to address scalability bottlenecks. There has been a big uptake in warehouse automation – which has provided more delivery certainty, security, as well as less damage to freight within warehouses caused by human error.”

But the warehouses of old are not necessarily equipped to adapt to this trend, Darren says. “One of the problems with automation is that it’s very difficult to retrofit warehouses,” he says. “Instead, you have to start afresh with a blank canvas with a vacant warehouse or greenfields developments, integrating the installation of automation into the new warehouse as you go.”

Higher labour costs in Australia and New Zealand operate in tandem with a scarcity of industrial land in the capital cities, Darren says, necessitating fresh warehousing solutions for both old and new companies. “There’s a reducing supply of industrial land, and as a consequence land prices go up and occupancy rates go up. Therefore, there’s a real ambition to automate, reduce area footprint with taller warehouses, and increase efficiency,” he says.

Another key driver for both investors and customers today is an insistence on sustainability, says Darren. 

“The sector is going through a transformative period that we’re very proud of in terms of being both effective and sustainable,” he says. “Previously, we’ve had our capital partners telling us: ‘We’re only going to invest in green’. But now we are seeing a trend where occupiers are also saying: ‘We’re only going to occupy sheds that are green.’”

To that end, LOGOS has implemented a sustainability framework. It is achieving green building certifications and awards across its portfolios. Its framework includes carbon neutrality targets, resource efficiency initiatives, as well as measures to conserve and regenerate biodiversity.

COVID-19 AND THE EMERGENCE OF E-FULFILMENT 

“We went into COVID in 2020 and we came out in 2030 in terms of advancements to the way in which people procure and buy,” Darren says. While the trend towards e-commerce had been gathering momentum for years, COVID-19 forced a sudden, rather than orderly, transition for many retailers and logistics companies.

“In many respects Australia is very advanced in automation and maturity because our cost base in terms of labour and other things forced it upon us,” Darren says.

“But e-fulfilment is a different matter. Our cities are much less population-dense than Shanghai or New York City, for instance, where two-hour delivery is commonplace.” Moreover, he says, e-commerce players in dense urban areas in Asia-Pacific have begun to adopt more automation to accommodate the vast scalability of the sector. 

Darren says that Australia has consequently placed less emphasis on last-mile delivery. But COVID-19 has shifted consumer emphasis to e-commerce.

“We’re in a situation where e-fulfilment will have to be looked at differently,” he says. “But there’s one difference. Previously Australian purchasers weren’t prepared to pay for delivery. Now they are starting to adapt – so I expect more investments in e-fulfilment and the ability to deliver quickly. We might see traditional retail centres shift from a classic shopping mall model to also include e-fulfilment centres.”

While the future of e-fulfilment in Australia is unclear, Darren says that many of LOGOS’s customers are considering different methods of distribution, including a move to decentralisation. 

“Rather than just having one big distribution centre serving a capital, some are looking at creating multiple distribution centres around the city,” he says.

LOGOS anticipated this trend and is already working to develop larger estates from which multiple distributors can operate. “We look at opportunities where we can aggregate occupiers into one location. We are always testing the market to see where we can bring customers into one estate,” Darren says.

“Being forward looking in our development of land banks is very important to us,” he says. “We have a variety of sites that we can offer customers depending on where and how they wish to distribute. We’re buying, developing, and capitalising on land bank opportunities across Australia.”

Anticipating the needs of tomorrow is crucial, he says, to developing land banks that are adaptable to tenants with flexible needs. “In particular, I think having real estate opportunities that connect with key infrastructure is key – whether it’s roads, airports, rail lines, or being adjacent to solid utilities such as data and power,” Darren says. “For us it’s all about constant and progressive development of our landbank so we can effectively serve our customers going forward.”

A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY

Justin Sherlock, LOGOS State Manager for Queensland, says that LOGOS is well positioned to offer the kinds of flexible warehouse solutions that the market demands. “We have been developing our Gold Coast Logistics Hub since we acquired the land in late 2017,” he says. “The acquisition was driven by our identification of strategic shortages of zoned industrial land in the central Gold Coast region.”

The Gold Coast Logistics Hub is well placed for supply chain connectivity. It is 75km away from Brisbane Airport, 38km from Gold Coast Airport, 24km from the Yatala Enterprise Area, and 75km from the Port of Brisbane.

The Hub’s first purpose-built facility was for Toll Group, so it could centralise and streamline its distribution operations in the area, says Justin. 

“Toll had had a number of different facilities on the Gold Coast, which was getting inefficient. The facility we built them meant they could centralise all their disparate components into one facility, and they have got a lot of supply chain efficiencies out of that,” he says.

“It was a big project for them because they’d been looking for a suitable Gold Coast site for about 10 years and couldn’t find it. We worked together to solve the problem and create a true last mile destination for them.”

LOGOS purpose-built Toll’s new Gold Coast facility.

Before it became the Hub, the Gold Coast estate was previously a Colgate Palmolive toothpaste and washing powder facility, long dormant due to offshoring of its manufacturing, Justin says. 

“We acquired the site, removed the existing improvements and undertook an extensive program of bulk earthworks,” he says. “We moved over 600,000 m3 of material and invested about $14 million in infrastructure to create the lots, roads, services and external road upgrades for the estate.”

But the Toll facility is only one part of LOGOS’s overall vision for the Hub. As Justin says: “There is a critical shortage of decent product on the Coast to accommodate logistics & warehouse occupiers. That’s why we’ve built eight units specifically designed for such tenants, ranging from 1400 to 7000 sqm and to be made available from July.”

These eight units are ideally suited to occupiers that have experienced rapid growth during COVID-19, says Justin. “We’ve currently leased out two of the eight units and we are expecting the others to be taken up quite quickly. Additionally, we can also offer tailored facilities within the estate of up to 30,000 sqm – purpose built for what our customers need in this great last-mile location.”

The Gold Coast Logistics Hub is one exciting manifestation of LOGOS’s guiding philosophy, says Darren Searle. 

“Building sheds is not a difficult task, and that ability is not what differentiates LOGOS. What is important is having the capital partners and tenants that will back us into the next genre of sheds – sheds that are more efficient, more sustainable, have higher clearances and therefore storage capacities, are more specialised, and so on. That backing comes down to the confidence we have from our capital partners and our customers, a confidence built on our outstanding network in the Pan Asia region.”

For more information on LOGOS, click here

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