Cold Storage Efficiency
Cold storage facilities have their own unique challenges and, therefore, require unique tools for optimized efficiency and cost savings.
1. Ensure the safety of your workforce. At minimum, cold storage facilities need to follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state guidelines to ensure that workers take breaks and don't work in the freezer for too long. On average, freezer warehouses have higher labor turnover than normal warehouses, so it is important to be flexible and understand your workforce's wants, needs, and overall safety.
2. Enable full EDI integration. Cold storage warehouses should encourage vendors to provide electronic data interchange (EDI) integration capabilities. EDI saves receivers from having to record data via radio frequency device or paper. Not only are these methods difficult to record with gloves, but they also increase the risk of product getting out of its allowable temperature range.
3. Utilize appointment scheduling tools. An inbound and outbound appointment scheduling tool prevents product from sitting in staging locations for too long, which risks crowding in the staging areas as well as high product temperatures.
4. Understand the requirements. Today, it is common for both customers and government regulators to have specific requirements surrounding shelf life, product dating, product mixing, labeling, tracking, and tracing. It is imperative to have a warehouse management system that can handle advanced configuration around these needs. Due to the Food Safety Modernization Act, being able to document all steps in the food supply chain is crucial.
5. Implement high-speed, narrow doors. High-speed, insulated doors keep temperature energy loss costs to a minimum. Consider installing narrower doors, as it is rare for two lift trucks to pass through the door at the same time. Having separate entrance and exit doors is another great way to save on energy costs.
6. Consider automation. Automation can reduce the number of workers and time spent in the freezer. Some examples include an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), a palletizer, a pallet inverter, or robots that can bring product to ambient rooms for picking.
7. Maximize storage and storage density. The cost of operating a cold storage warehouse is high, so consider best practices to maximize cubic storage. Storage solutions, such as double deep racking, pallet flow racks, or an AS/RS, allow for storing more product in the same area.
8. Invest in freezer-rated equipment. Purchase vehicles, radio frequency devices, and material handling equipment that are specifically made for a freezer environment. This equipment interacts better with gloves, and the batteries degrade slower in the cold than normal equipment.
9. Try different cycle counting processes. To limit the amount of time spent in the freezer environment, consider enabling a count-back or count-to-zero process for your pickers. A count-back is when pickers count how much product is left in a location after a pick. A count-to-zero prompts pickers to confirm that pick locations are empty when they are depleted.
10. Invest in advanced cold chain monitoring. Onboard temperature monitoring equipment can offer real-time visibility and mitigate the risk of loss due to product temperature. Advanced data gathering across the supply chain can ensure product safety and optimize the supply chain network.
SOURCES: Adam Kehoe, Senior Consultant; and Charlie Schram, Senior Project Manager, enVista