Three Ways Automated Pallet Storage Solves Throughput Issues in Frozen Product Storage Areas

2014_viastore_Case Study_Myronivsky Hliboproduct_Picture_3aWith the global frozen food market predicted to grow to $307.3 billion (U.S. dollars) by 2020, warehouses currently using manual processes in their frozen product storage areas might consider material handling automation. That’s because automated pallet storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) can improve throughput of slow- to medium-moving frozen products by enhancing handling practices in three ways.

1Dependability. Frozen product storage areas are not known for being comfortable work environments. That’s because, well, they’re cold. Depending on the products within, the temperature may range from -4 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. For operations relying on workers to transport pallet loads of product into and out of the freezer zone—as well as maneuver the loads inside the freezer with forklifts or pallet jacks—inconsistent availability of labor can dramatically impact throughput. Associates may call in sick, or a facility may have difficulty filling job openings, causing a decrease in handling rates. An AS/RS, on the other hand, is highly dependable and capable of operating around the clock without interruption. For personnel, however, a common rule of thumb is a 20-minute break after 40 minutes spent inside a frozen space.

2Repeatability. An AS/RS destined for a frozen product storage application is designed to perform the same handling operation over and over, at a consistent rate. With that level of repeatability, facility management can plan workflow around the automated input and output cycles of the system. Achieving a routine and predictable rate of throughput improves scheduling—allowing an operation to accommodate seasonal demand spikes, support additional inventory for special promotions and more accurately forecast sales.

3Reliability. Built with components that can withstand the punishing temperatures of a freezer space, automated pallet handling is extremely reliable, delivering up to 99.98% operating efficiency. Further, automated material handling systems don’t make mistakes. A worker, particularly one approaching the end of an hour-long stint in the freezer, might forget to scan the license plate on a pallet to tag it to a location. With an automated system, the placement of a pallet in a specific storage location is directed and monitored by the warehouse management system (WMS) and warehouse control system (WCS).

But wait, there’s more. While not specifically related to throughput, high-density, rack-supported pallet AS/RS systems make full use of the overhead space within a freezer, up to 148 feet. That means more pallets of product—as dense as 10 deep in a channel storage configuration—can be stored in a smaller footprint, contributing to greater energy efficiency and maximizing the dollars spent to keep an area at sub-zero temperatures. This means less “heat sink,” as the facility’s overall roof space is much smaller than that of a traditional cold storage facility. Storing more frozen items closer together, with less air space within a given area, helps maintain temperature consistency, reducing draw on the chiller unit itself.

Further, by automating pallet entrance and exit from the freezer, a smaller opening can be employed—as opposed to the larger opening needed to permit an operator to drive a forklift into and out of the space. This minimizes the amount of warm air entering the temperature-controlled zone, cutting energy losses.

Want to learn more? Learn how Americold, the leading global third-party logistics (3PL) provider of temperature-controlled warehousing, relies on a viastore automated pallet storage AS/RS to serve customers by handling a wide variety of products—including meats, dairy, fruit, vegetables and processed foods—at its Indianapolis location. Or, call us at 616.977.3950. We’ll be happy to answer your automated frozen product storage or material handling automation questions anytime.

About Garrett Smith

Garrett is a regional sales manager at the North American headquarters of viastore systems in Grand Rapids, MI.

He is a dynamic and innovative sales/engineer professional with over 15 years extensive experience in automated logistics systems sales.

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