Ed Bedington reports on a service designed to match seekers of short-term warehousing and companies with space to spare Space, once described as the final frontier, is often more like an invisible obstacle course ­ warehouse space, that is, rather than the black, infinite variety. Most companies can, on occasions, find themselves short on space, or with far too much. But there may well be a solution to this in the form of Spacebuster. Despite sounding like a cross between a superhero and a vacuum cleaner, this new web-based offering aims to help logistics managers by providing a marketplace for companies to advertise and sell their short-term warehouse space. The scheme has been developed by property consultant Fuller Peiser and offers a solution to the major problem in finding warehouse space (particularly short term) ­ the lack of readily available information. Ian McCartney, Kellogg's European distribution procurement manager, says: "Anyone looking for space has to approach the market to make enquiries." Word then spreads, he says, and prices immediately rise, even after a simple request for information, let alone an inquiry to buy. By providing visible information, Spacebuster, which went live last month, offers a point of contact between space buyers and sellers or those who want to gauge market conditions. Director Charles Binks says: "It was set up to sell those bits around the edges that get missed. Our own dealings and experience of the short term storage market bore out the need for such a concept. We have extensive experience in the property market and had people asking for short term storage. We found that was more difficult to obtain than long term space." The Spacebuster concept is simple, says Binks. Vacant pallet and floor space in warehouses is costly to market and therefore frequently wasted. The website can connnect this forgotten space with companies in need of a quick solution, even for those requiring medium and long term storage. "We can target the areas where one contract comes to an end and another starts, because there's usually a gap between the two. A key market is the food and drink industry which has seasonal peaks." The system has almost 20 companies registered to sell with more than 70 properties on-line offering a total of 10m sq ft of space. Some of the companies advertising include P&O TransEuropean, Securicor Omega Logistics and Hays. Binks says it is their intention to make Spacebuster the first point of contact for those either looking to sell space or buy. Spacebuster gives companies the luxury of choice when hunting for space. They no longer need to take the first available option because they are afraid of taking the time to look for a better deal. Although Spacebuster is aimed at logistics companies, Binks says there are other sectors where space is available and going to waste. "There are plenty of major retailers and manufacturers who often find themselves with surplus capacity at various points throughout the year. "In the past they may not have had the chance to market this or realise any value out of it, but there's a good market out there for them." Kellogg's McCartney agrees, saying the short term selling of its own spare capacity may be something it would consider, but he says the creation of Spacebuster could have another impact on the logistics sector, simply by allowing companies to operate more efficiently. "Because we have difficulty in finding space, we sometimes over provide and end up with over capacity. Spacebuster could mean we can reduce our overall capacity and use their system to buy short term space as and when we need it. "It may well mean companies can use their existing warehouse space better, and become more efficient in that area of logistics." Spacebuster has been live for only a few weeks but it is already attracting attention, Binks says. "We've had a number of new companies register as sellers and had 33 register as seekers of space. So we are pleased with that." Ian McCartney adds that the system could have a big impact on the industry: "I'm surprised that it's taken so long for somebody to do this. It will take time for people to get used to it but I think after a while it will become a key part of the industry. "But the scheme is only as good as the number of people who are signed up to it, so it's going to require as many people as possible to make it a success. " {{FEATURES }}