Distribution Center for North American Supermarkets

Customer Project

Structural Engineering NEDCON B.V.
Doetinchem, Netherlands

Dimensions of Racking System: Length: ~ 55 m | Width: ~ 38 m | Height: ~ 22 m | Weight: 408 t
Number of Nodes: 10,723 | Members: 9,860 | Cross-Sections: 17 | Materials: 4

In 2016, NEDCON got the assignment to install the steelwork for two fully automated distribution centers for two supermarket companies. One distribution center is located in the US state of Michigan and the other distribution center in the Canadian province of Alberta.

NEDCON is an independent company that produces storage systems and has been part of the international steel group voestalpine since 2004. The headquarters is located in Doetinchem (the Netherlands) and the production activities take place in Pardubice (Czech Republic). In addition, NEDCON has divisions in various European countries as well as in the United States.

Structure and Design

NEDCON designed a steel structure for automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) consisting of a crane‑operated steel storage pallet racking and a large area of equipment supporting platforms. The dimensions of the building are 260 x 190 meters about the equivalent of approximately seven football pitches. The total racking capacity per project is more than 38,000 pallets.

Several steel storage racking systems with a height of approximately 22.5 m were built. The utilized structural members are made of thin‑walled steel sections. The structure consists of diagonally braced upright frames connected by beams carrying product loads resulting from pallets.

In the longitudinal direction, the structure contains no crossing diagonals. The stiffening is carried out by semi‑rigid (hooked‑in) beam‑to‑column connections. This leads to, together with a high‑weight load resulting from the stored products, a very high sensitivity to second order effects.

The seismic loads made the design even more challenging. The challenge was to make the displacement of the rack in the serviceability limit state (SLS) comply with the very tight deformation limitations. This would ensure a proper performance of the system in combination with automated storage and retrieval machinery.

3D modeling and geometrical nonlinear analysis were carried out in RFEM. The RF‑DYNAM Pro add‑on module was used to account for seismic loads prescribed by the US (IBC 2012 and RMI 2008) and Canadian (NBCC 2010 and RMI 2008) design codes.

Certain members of the structure are susceptible to lateral‑torsional buckling. These structural members were analyzed on lateral‑torsional buckling using the RF‑FE‑LTB add‑on module. The results were compared with and validated by physical tests.

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