If you’re a producer of temperature-sensitive products and need cold storage warehousing, this is your opportunity to learn how to keep your cool.
What is a Cold Storage Warehouse?
Simply put, a cold storage warehouse is building or facility designed to maintain certain environmental conditions to keep temperature sensitive products safe. Outwardly, these warehouses look like any other typical warehouse but differ internally to meet their purpose.
Why Do We Need Cold Storage?
Cold storage and associated warehousing are nothing new. Since people have always needed to eat, we’ve been storing food at cold temperatures long before the convenience of home fridges and freezers were invented. The premise being that by keeping food products cold they last longer thus maintaining quality(and safety.
Over time, cold storage warehousing has graduated from Victorian-era ice houses to industrial scale processes that utilize sophisticated, high-tech facilities, often with high levels of automation.
As of 2018, the global frozen food market was valued at 260.8 billion dollars U.S. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The essential need to keep the nascent Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at extreme sub-zero temperatures was a test to see just how robust the cold chain and supportive logistics services were.
With cold storage warehousing plunged into the spotlight, most of the concern was directed to how pharmacies and vaccination centres would cope with receiving and maintaining large volumes of vaccine at the required -70°C temperature.
Though that was a measure of extreme control, we can’t overlook the daily need fort chilled or frozen food, other pharmaceutical products and goods that need cold or chilled warehousing. The sheer scale of the cold chain is vast, in which temperature monitored warehousing forms an essential part.
Types of Cold Storage Warehousing
To make up basic types of cold storage warehousing, there are essentially two main elements: the external warehouse itself and the equipment inside. There is a third integrated option,which combines both, where the racks common to most warehousing designs are themselves part of the integral structure of the warehouse. Regardless of construction type, all cold storage facilities play their part in keeping their internal space at a constantly controlled temperature.
In the broad sense, cold storage warehousing generally falls into two categories dictated by the required temperature:
- Refrigerated controlled temperature ranging from 0 to 10 °C.
- Fully frozen, with temperature control between -30 to 0°C.
Each type of cold storage has a different purpose. A refrigerated storage warehouse, typically for food, aims to maintain the produce at an optimum temperature that abates spoilage and extends product life.
A freezer warehouse on the other hand must keep the product at a constant, stable temperature to mitigate the risk of damage to its integrity or alteration to its optimal state.
Requirements and Challenges
Keeping products in cold storage in a warehouse presents unique challenges which need to be addressed.:Some of them include:
- The human factor – how will employees operate in sub-zero temperatures?
- The added expense compared to ambient temperature storage due to extra energy costs.
- How control, maintain and monitor constant temperature control.
Many of these challenges can be overcome by carefully selecting and developing specific use equipment, such as conveyors and racking, which optimize the use of available space. Automation and semi-automation also play a part in streamlining processes to reduce overheads and labour costs.
Working in a Cold Storage Warehouse
Working in an enclosed low temperature environments does carry the potential for adverse effects. There are risks associated with human health and on the storage and handling equipment itself.
To help mitigate problems, employees must wear work clothing that protects against the cold such as appropriately lined jackets, thermal pants, and gloves. In a similar fashion, equipment used in a cold or freezer storage needs to be adapted to the type of environment. For example, devices with touch-pads should be designed to work with individuals wearing protective gloves.
Equipment, Monitoring and Maintenance
Since products in a cold storage warehouse are sensitive to changes in temperature, such facilities usually have sensors that control the environmental temperature inside. Since humidity is a major consideration, dehumidifiers are employed to control and reduce ice formation.
Since cold storage warehouses must be kept at specific temperatures at all times, the added difficulty is in product inflows and outflows.
With the constant movement of goods, secure airlock systems are installed to help maintain temperature consistency. These anti-rooms usually consist of two high-speed doors, one leading into the cold storage space itself and one to the outside, of which the two are never open at the same time. This minimizes any sudden changes in temperature, reduces condensation, and cold loss.
Cold warehouse storage solutions may also include mobile pallet racking. This system maximizes floor space by having only one operating aisle. This has the benefit of saving 40% floor space compared to conventional pallet racking, and increases overall storage capacity by up to 80%.
Another ideal option for chilled and cold storage goods is drive-in racking. This warehousing method allows for storage in large quantities, again making the same available space more efficient by up to 90%.
Finally, cleaning a cold storage warehouse properly prevents the spread of microorganisms that could potentially damage stored products.
As with cleanrooms, two types of processes are carried out: the elimination of visible dirt and sanitization, which consists of the use of chemical products that eliminate harmful microorganisms from the goods.
The rigorous implementation and monitoring of such activities are required to maintain HACCP compliance and SQF certification.
Cold Storage Warehousing Sustainability
As governments continue to remain committed to a target of net zero carbon by 2050 in all sectors, warehousing sustainability presents a particular challenge to the cold storage facilities being built today.
This increasing focus on sustainability means added investment in the development of AGV operated vehicles in cold store environments. The aim being to make the warehouses as efficient as possible. Adopting a pallet shuttle system reduces manpower and thus the need for forklift trucks. Such systems are ideally suited to warehousing with low SKU levels which need an efficient yet compact storage system.
For cold storage warehouses with a high product turnover, pallet-flow systems allow for fast access, using up to 60% less flow space.
Other Factors to Consider
As you can see, there are many considerations over and above the average warehouse when it comes to cold storage warehousing.
If you’re looking for a fully qualified partner to handle your temperature-sensitive products, Brimich Logistics has the resources to advise on all these factors, as well as the right storage solutions for your cold storage warehousing needs. To talk to us today to learn more about our cold storage capabilities!