According to the latest economic report published by the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA), a large number of European countries started off 2013 with an increase in turnover in the food sector and a total increase in exports outside the European Union of 4.1%.
The growth in the food sector implies a greater need for temperature controlled warehousing. With temperatures below 18ºC and with minimum temperatures that can reach -30ºC, cold storage warehouses have to face additional challenges.
It is a usual practice to resort to palletizing by means of automated warehouses, thus minimizing the amount of non-cooled air entering the cold storage areas and reducing the time staff have to spend in low temperature conditions.
In cases where automated warehouses are not installed, high storage density metal racking is used, such as drive-in pallet racking which, since it does not need aisles, enables maximum use to be made of the cold storage area or a smaller size area to be used. This is especially important if you take into account that energy wise it is more expensive to cool the air than to heat it.
But storage at low temperatures does not affect only the design of the warehouse but also the maintenance operations, since the cold reduces the battery life both of the data acquisition terminals for picking operations and the electric forklifts. In the first case, the solution is to use specially designed devices for these environments, appropriately sealed to avoid excessive cooling and with larger buttons and high sensitivity screens to favour ergonomics when protective gloves are used.
In the case of the forklifts, the use of high voltage batteries (48V as opposed to 24V or 36V) enables this effect to be partially compensated. Another more novel alternative is to use forklifts with hydrogen fuel cells, since their performance is not affected by low temperatures.
Although the right choice of metal racking type is important in all warehouses, in the case of cold storage warehouses it is even more crucial. ATOX, as a manufacturer of storage systems, can offer tailor made solutions, thus optimizing the cold storage space, agility in maintenance operations and energy efficiency.