Wouldn’t it be interesting to jump in a Delorean with a flux capacitor and time travel back to check out these manufacturers and distributors? Here are our four favourite warehouses from times past…
1. The Lingotto car factory
Designed and built to house the automobile factory operations of Fiat in 1923, the Lingotto factory is an impressive piece of architecture with a simple (if not avant-garde) concept behind it.
Five floors high, the raw materials for the cars would arrive at the ground floor and then gradually move up each floor of the building through the assembly line. After reaching completion at the top, they’d emerge onto the 1.5km rooftop testing track. Fans of the 1969 classic film The Italian Job may even spot this impressive and influential building in a certain getaway scene. And, despite being converted into a public complex in 1989, the car factory still draws much admiration from architectural enthusiasts.
2. This Sears, Roebuck & Company mail order plant
If you’d worked in this warehouse, you’d be sending customer mail orders to various departments by popping them in a canister and firing it through a network of tubes. What’s not to love?
The well-known US department store Sears began its life selling products through catalogue mail order. To speed up the delivery of customer orders to the correct merchandise department the company installed a pneumatic tube transport system. Networks of tubes were built (more than 24 km of them!) using compressed air to move the carriers from one area to another. A press release from the time mentions that it is “not an uncommon thing” for the tube system to handle more than seventy thousand carriers in a single day.
Although you’d have been lucky to have a job there at all. According to the same press release, the system “undoubtedly takes the place of an army of messenger boys and handles inter-department communications at a tremendous saving in time.”
To see a real-life pneumatic tube system in action, visit C1 cafe in Christchurch and have your chips fired straight to you in a canister from the kitchen.
3. This Palmerston North paperhanging warehouse
We’d love to hop in the time machine and travel back to this warehouse, even if it was only to tell them what was in store for distribution centres in the future! This warehouse is part of a business that started in the 1890s by brothers Richard and Edward Tingey – Painters, Paperhangers, and Importers of Oil, Colour, and Glass.
The Tingeys would be pleased to see that wallpaper is still very much in demand, and fascinated to see how Palmerston North warehouses operate these days. From high-tech, ultra-stretch film for pallets to rotary arm wrappers that fully automate wrapping for dispatch, we think they’d be pretty impressed to see how far technology in New Zealand distribution centres has come.
4. One of these warehouses in Speicherstadt, Hamburg, Germany
The name ‘Speicherstadt’ translates to ‘City of Warehouses’. Built over the period from 1883 to 1927, and developed as a free zone to transfer goods without paying customs, it is the largest warehouse district in the world.
It’s also now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and it’s easy to see why. The seven storey buildings, constructed on wooden piles, are an impressive engineering feat and, with entrances from both water and land, provide quite the outlook for a warehouse if you ask us. When the district first opened last century it must have been an remarkable place to work.
Nowadays Speicherstadt is one of the main tourist attractions of Hamburg, with many coming to admire the warehouses’ distinctive architecture and red brick facades by boat.