Streamlining Cold Storage By Leveraging Key Automation Technologies
The consumer demand for cold storage is expected to grow by 4.5 percent by 2023. This puts food producers under a lot of pressure to analyze where their products come from and where they end up. Consumers start turning to these supply chain nodes for consumption as the distance between the store and the consumer increases. Today’s cold storage chain experts can benefit from sophisticated automation software, innovative fulfillment design and a vast network to manage their operations. A chain of food suppliers, storage facilities, transportation companies, and distributors ensure that frozen food gets delivered to the right people. Factors such as their operational requirements and the building design of a cold storage operation must be looked into when automating their facility. Frozen food supply is highly reliant on management of the freezing and defrosting processes. Products are carefully monitored, right from the farm to the end-user. The most prevalent refrigerated and frozen storage facilities are:
Pre-productionSometimes, pre-production facilities are located near the raw material sources. These materials are then transported to a hub which serves a larger consumer base.
Distribution hubMerchants and producers can benefit from a distribution hub. Equipment for packaging automation and sorting is used in distribution and pre-production facilities.
Post-productionThe product is then stored in a post-production facility until needed. Post-production facilities are positioned near markets to ensure easy access and fresh commodities.
How can cold chain supply specialists prepare for this predicted growth?Automating material handling has the potential to revolutionize the future of the cold chain and help improve an inefficient supply chain while also saving costs. The cold storage industry has been steadily outpacing the population growth rate, with researchers predicting sales of frozen products to rise even further in 2022. With the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, sales of frozen foods rose to as much as 70%. This increased the need for state-of-the-art automation technologies to streamline cold food storage.
What drives key automation technologies to streamline cold food storage?This drastic increase in sales of frozen foods means that cold food storage providers have to increase their focus on delivering convenience, quality, relevance, and variety. Providers need to:
- Use conveyors to move cases or pallets into and out of refrigerated or frozen sections in a partially automated installation. This can be done by using an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) to set and remove multiple levels of storage containers to reduce a facility’s size while increasing its capacity.
- Determine the best course of action based on the potential savings in labor and payroll.
Advantages of Automated Cold StorageThere are numerous benefits to companies which use automation to replace workers in temperature-controlled warehouses and distribution hubs. A few of those benefits are:
Reduced Cost of OperationsOperating costs can be lowered through increased productivity and efficiency, reduction of the environmental footprint, lowering of energy consumption, optimization of floor space utilization and reduction of temporary labor among others.
Improved RetentionWorkforce Retention will be ensured when automation takes care of the exhausting and repetitive duties performed by employees. For instance, personnel can spend less time outside in the cold if a facility has automated heating and cooling systems. Workers can be reassigned to perform less physically demanding and more ergonomically sound tasks. Automation also makes it easier for companies to offer more competitive pay, which will help them attract and retain talent.
Increase Levels of ContentmentAutomation frees up managers to spend more time on streamlining processes rather than managing individuals, leading to higher customer satisfaction.