Into The Unknown – Cold Storage And Covid-19

With cold storage facilities in high demand, how should your warehouse prepare?

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cold storage workers

In this new age of Covid-19, many industries are working towards a newer normal for their operations. One industry that is dealing with increased demand and also constant disruption is the food distribution industry. Simply put, there’s just so great of a need as we continue to shelter in place that food production is soaring. With that, storage is key for those online and retail grocers that are trying to satisfy all consumers nationwide.

Cold storage is looking at a massive rise in increased storage space to help those essential businesses keep the food flowing. CBRE Research explored the relationship between e-commerce grocery growth and cold storage warehouse capacity, finding that up to 100 million sq. ft. of industrial freezer/cooler space will be needed to meet the demand generated by online grocery sales in the next five years … but that was before this pandemic started, meaning the additional storage need is greatly accelerated now.

With all that said, just how does a cold storage facility prepare for these coming increases? With such demand and little slowdown anticipated in the coming months (and possibly years), what are some ways a cold storage facility embraces this quickened pace?

Preparation

cold storage forkliftsTo prepare your facility for additional storage, equipment and just general capacity needs you might encounter, consider a first step of walking your warehouse to properly inspect and observe how your cold storage operations run. A floor view can give you the advantage of noticing things you might not otherwise, and also discussing possible solutions with your workers to gain a better understanding.

From this, you can create a plan that will involve everyone who should have input. This is important for your operations to gain the right advantages to set you up when the new clients/products start to come in. To have these guidelines and “wishlists” in place ahead of time will help avoid confusion and clutter when adding extra areas and products.

More: The warehouse manager’s guide to walking around

Productivity

High energy costs are a constant enemy of cold storage facilities, and the increase in demand is only bound to make this headache all the more important to battle. Increasing throughput in an energy-saving (and therefore money-saving) manner can help you increase capacity while keeping the added costs at a minimum.

Utilizing your available space in its most cost-effective manner will allow for additional storage, which can help you add clients and products. To do this, you’ll want to a rack layout that can give you maximum storage. You can start by reviewing your current rack layout and design, as well as your pallet positions. What entry options are available within the current rack layout? Is there an optimal flow for lift trucks? In addition, when adding extra storage, you may want to review your pushback rack availability and how that could increase as well to meet growing demand.

More: Case Study: Zero Mountain adds frozen storage

Safety and comfort

cold storage entryPersistent and reliable safety culture is important for all types of food distribution operations, but in a cold storage environment, it is even more so given the nature and temperatures that workers are dealing with day in and day out. Just like preparation for increased storage is effective, training your facility in the safest ways of operation can help you stay safe as you continue to grow. Pre-Covid levels of warehouse turnover were high, and even more so in the cold storage sector, so keeping your employees involved in their own safety can foster an environment of trust and retention.

Studies have shown that workers may be greatly impacted by uncomfortable temperatures. They get less done and make more mistakes when they are cold. Outfitting them with adequate gear for the environment is obviously imperative. But also make sure your safety training covers the full range of symptoms of cold stress injuries and the appropriate first aid. This will enable them to monitor each other’s condition as well as their own and take the right actions when needed, which will empower them to work safely and at their best efficiency.

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