With its capital-intensive equipment, strict temperature requirements, and energy dependence, the cold chain has always been a demanding logistics segment. Now the sector is grappling with additional challenges—from increases in the sensitivity, quality standards, and volume of many of its goods, to continually mounting regulations.
The cold chain also faces many of the same issues challenging the entire supply chain: serving the global market, driving out costs, becoming more strategic, and addressing capacity and resource constraints, all while managing the exacting needs of the sector’s precious cargo—primarily food and pharmaceutical products.
Automation for Freezer Warehouses
Warehouses are investing in two kinds of automated storage—automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) and mobile racking—to keep workers warm and happy, reduce energy and increase productivity. AS/RSis an inventory management system that is widely used in manufacturing facilities, distribution centres, and warehouses throughout the United States and the world. AS/RS consists of machines that move up and down one or multiple parallel storage aisles, storing and retrieving products and materials for dissemination to internal and external destinations alike.
The advantages of these systems are numerous. They provide users with increased inventory control and tracking, including greater flexibility to accommodate changing business conditions. These AS/RS systems are comprised of modular subsystems that can be easily replaced to minimize downtime and extend the service life of the overall system. They also reduce labour costs, lowering necessary workforce requirements, increasing workplace safety, and removing personnel from difficult working conditions (such as cold food storage environments). Perhaps most significantly, however, AS/RS systems can produce major savings in inventory storage costs, as vastly improved warehouse space utilization—both vertically and horizontally—creates greater storage density. AS/RS systems are increasingly reliant on wireless technology, as wiring is not always a viable option. Particularly in harsh environments, a reliable wireless network is essential for AS/RSs to get the job done without a hitch.
Mobile racking uses conventional selective pallet racks mounted on carriages and moving on running rails and guide rails embedded directly into concrete floor. Since energy expenses in a freezer warehouse are second only to labour costs, it makes sense to double the amount of pallet locations inside the building or reduce the initial building size. This gets us back to the question: does the warehouse owner want to freeze product or freeze aisles? Doubling the amount of pallet positions can reduce the total cost per pallet position by as much as 40% in new construction projects and can reduce utility bills by as much as 50%. High-density storage solutions such as Mobile Racking result in a much smaller building footprint by up to 45%. A significant reduction in energy loss (and utility bills) also ensues, due to the correspondingly smaller roof structure reducing air escape. The other cost savings of a smaller, more efficient mobile racking warehouse include a 35% lower overall investment in construction costs and a reduction of up to 49% in utility costs.
The picture below shows the mobile racking system.
Telematics in Cold Chain Monitoring
Telematics solution in the cold chain management enables fleet managers to get more control of their cold chain fleets by tracking the exact location of their vehicles while allowing their drivers to monitor the precise temperatures of refrigerated cargo saving them considerable costs.
The customized cold chain monitoring solutions provide a detailed history of product temperature through even the most complex cold chains involving manufacturing, refrigerated warehousing, intermodal distribution, and point of use. Through telematics it is accessible for the food industry to trace food items and record environmental conditions throughout the entire supply chain.
Sensors in telematics monitor the temperature and humidity of products. They can detect if the temperature for a specific food item goes above or below the ideal temperature, at any given time, and record that detail. It helps businesses to identify spots in their temperature-controlled supply chain – or cold chain – to maintain the desired quality.
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