Your facility is only as flexible as the fire protection system

Deploying fire protection systems designed for ease of reconfiguration can help futureproof warehouses.

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Editor’s Note: The following column by Daniel Wake, product manager for Victaulic, is part of Modern’s Other Voices column. The series features ideas, opinions and insights from end-users, analysts, systems integrators and OEMs. Click here to learn about submitting a column for consideration.


Pressures exerted by Amazon and others in the digital retail sector are making it necessary to carry out warehouse and storage modifications more frequently, and facility owners are responding by introducing more flexibility in building systems to more effectively and profitably manage these changes when the time comes.

To maximize the full potential of those efforts, facility owners should start by making sure they choose the right fire protection system.

Drivers of Change

Companies are transforming customer service, and that is changing not only how they are using warehouses, but how many warehouses they need. Amazon, for example, is looking closely at how it will offer customer support as well as merchandise from its fulfillment centers and how offices will be housed jointly with storage and distribution services.

Warehouse usage also is being impacted by the need to efficiently manage fluctuating capacity. The new normal is for owners to sublet space during off-peak periods to short-term lessees.

Building warehouses for flexibility has not been the norm, but anticipated usage is changing the playing field. Soon, more facilities will house multiple tenants, and warehouses will have to be refashioned quickly when tenants and space usage change. But while flexibility is great for companies that need short-term access to warehouse space, it is a challenge for builders.

Warehouse owners who want to capitalize on leasing opportunities need design and construction companies that can keep pace with the demand for redesigning and reconfiguring their properties. The number of new warehouses needed and the pace at which space usage is changing are significantly impacting design and construction, and while it might be a surprise to many, sprinkler systems are among the critical components that are affected.

The fact is that choosing a fire protection system that’s easily installed and reconfigurable can tap into hidden value, get you to first cash flow sooner and improve business uptime and profitability over the life of the facility.

Evolution of Fire Protection Solutions

Pipe joining products, sprinkler technology, and even system valves have been simplified to improve installation and modification times and to reduce overall costs.

Grooved mechanical couplings for example, which eliminate the need for installers using complicated equipment, allow sprinkler piping to be installed more quickly in the field. By avoiding the need for cumbersome threaded joints, with their associated risks, owners can improve safety as well as the installation times of their systems. The couplings also make reconfigurations faster because they provide a union connection at each joint – which means you can get back to work sooner. Utilizing newly introduced pre-assembled couplings that are “ready to install” straight out of the box can deliver even greater gains in installation efficiency and flexibility.

Historically, once a pipe was fabricated and installed, contractors had to plug, cut or remove sections of pipe to make changes – a relatively intrusive and time-consuming process that caused lengthy downtimes and delays for businesses. The recent introduction of a one-outlet-size-fits-all standardized approach addresses all these concerns and makes installations and reconfigurations more efficient. Now, regardless of changing system requirements, the same components can be installed simply by applying this groove to a sprinkler or flexible hose with a captured ready-to-install coupling.

Finally, grooved solutions eliminate prep work and the associated consumables (tape and dope). Without the need to make up fittings, more workers can be put to work hanging and installing system components.

By deploying fire protection systems and technologies that make installation and reconfiguration easier, owners can meet tenant needs faster, maximize the value of their facilities over time and “futureproof” their systems for the inevitable transformations to come.

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