On the surface, industrial properties are very simple. Most units tend to be functional, no-frills, metal boxes in out-of-town industrial parks, used either for storage or as working facilities for manufacturing, logistics, chemicals companies.
But that doesn’t mean that finding and renting one is straightforward. There are a whole range of things you need to think about before you sign a lease – from the intricate physical details of the building itself, to the true costs of running it once all the hidden factors are taken into account.
If you have extra requirements, such as especially high power capacity for heavy duty machinery, or enhanced security for high-value stock, bear in mind that not all industrial units are made equal. It’s better to shop around than to settle for a unit that will cost you more in the long run.
We’ve prepared a short guide to industrial units, with what to look out for, and what to bear in mind, when you come to searching the market.
Business growth forecasts, including workforce size
If a warehouse is just being used for storage, then it’s generally pretty straightforward, although even this varies a lot: if you are going to be stacking goods up high then you’ll need the space for specialist equipment such as cranes and robotics to work freely.
But if you’re using a warehouse as a plant for manufacturing or processing, with heavy machinery involved, your requirements might be very different. Having a clear list of what those requirements are, and what sort of machinery and equipment you will be using is the first step.
Specifications and technical requirements: height, loading doors, roller shutter doors.
Beyond the basics of height, floorspace and the layout, it’s important to know what ratio of a warehouse is allocated as office space and how much is for typical industrial use. Beyond this there are numerous considerations to bear in mind, such as what type of lighting, gas, and broadband utilities are in place (and whether you’ll need to alter these yourself), as well as the types of doors installed, whether there is designated parking and yard space, and whether the temperature controls suit your needs. All of this needs to be factored into the cost – many leases require the tenant to pay for upgrades and installation of extra facilities.
Transport: proximity to air, sea, rail and road links for cars and trucks
Whether it’s for storage space or as a working plant, it’s vital that an industrial unit is easily accessible. Most warehouses tend to be well connected, with good access to a motorway. But in big cities you will often find industrial sites surprisingly close to the centre. If you’re operating a retail fulfilment centre that serves that city these can seem ideal, but bear in mind that urban warehouses tend to be older and may not be kitted out with cutting edge features.
If you’re serving a wider area, or region, the best bet is to be as close to a motorway as possible. There are strategic locations nationally – the East Midlands contains an area known in logistics circles as the ‘Golden Triangle’, between Birmingham and Nottingham, with key motorways the M1, M6 and M42 running through it – or hubs that are more focused around particular cities.
Connectivity also means having good facilities on site for loading and unloading goods. Make sure you check a building’s loading bays, and the rules governing centralised facilities for receiving goods, such as permitted hours of use, and make sure these tally with your own needs. Check the local street network to make sure there aren’t any low bridges or other restrictions on heavy goods vehicles needing to access your site.