Win the ‘Cold War’ – go automated


Countless food companies across the UK require refrigerated storage. Bigger firms may, in fact, need numerous cold storage facilities, strategically located in different regions. Where output units run into high quantities, that can mean thousands of  pallets being required – easily stackable pallets for storage in warehouses and distribution areas, ready for efficient transportation when the time comes to ‘get the wagons rolling’.

All this requires manual operators, of course: forklift truck drivers and other personnel responsible for moving output into either short- or long-term storage, or to other areas of a facility, for loading and shipping.

How can all this activity be done with greater efficiency and in a more tolerable manner, protecting workers by minimising the time they must spend toiling in sub-zero temperatures?

The answer can be by switching to an automated system.

Elevated ‘corridors’ as part of programmable systems

In low-temperature environments, state-of the-art automated technology (using raised platforms) can be used to meet storage challenges; the aim being to better facilitate overall flow of operations whilst simultaneously limiting the time workers need spend in freezing areas.

At an automated warehouse, a sophisticated product pallet-handling system, utilised in combination with robotic retrieval cranes (and storage), can help massively in improving efficiency and protecting workers’ health and wellbeing, particularly if part of the automated system includes a raised area (like an elevated corridor 20 or 30 feet above floor level). This allows for workers and trucks to pass safely below, whilst at the same time aiding continuous production and other work activity flow, well away from low temperature storage areas situated on higher levels at the premises.

Minimising time spent in cold areas

Some cold storage facilities can literally be gigantic freezers, where the temperature can be as low as -30°F. By switching to a primarily automated system, workers are safeguarded much more from the potential risks of labouring hour after hour in, or close to, an almost unbearably cold working environment, with the pace of throughput being accelerated and maximised at the same time. So, it’s a win win. It’s also great for staff morale – ‘look after your workers, and they’ll look after you’, as the saying goes. But, of course, automated systems cost money…

Moving with the times

Having designed and installed innovative automation technologies can transform a plant-attached warehousing and distribution facility, changing it to a state-of-the-art environment and making it almost unrecognisable from its previous set up. Studies show that, once the system is implemented, very few companies who’ve taken the bold step have regretted it. The potential boost in profits generated by connecting up production, storage and distribution in a seamless automated way can mean that the financial outlay involved is quickly recouped.