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How warehouse efficiency in the cold chain increases with automation

As consumer reliance on chilled and frozen foods rises, so, too, do modern technology solutions to satisfy those needs.

Icy-cold foods are a hot commodity, particularly since the start of the pandemic.

Frozen foods are a pandemic powerhouse worldwide, with industry growth expected across several markets, including the United States,Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Clearly, the cold chain is an important segment worldwide. Consumers rely on eCommerce and brick-and-mortar retailers to stock these chilled goods they use in their homes. Yet, warehouses and distribution centers (DCs) that have not invested in modern software and automated solutions will have difficulties keeping up with this growing trend.

And while the investment in modern software and automation might seem high, the operating costs are low in comparison, making the return on investment (ROI) well worth the price.

Let’s explore some trends and challenges in the cold chain, along with how automated solutions will help this growing supply chain segment thrive.

Keeping food safe from producer to consumer

Frozen foods are among the fastest-growing categories in grocery stores as shoppers cook more family meals at home than ever. Frozen foods provide ease of preparation, can be a quick, cost-effective total meal solution and save time by having the products on hand when needed.

To maintain food safety, the ability to trace food and beverages throughout the entire supply chain is becoming increasingly important, particularly when it comes to tracking the origin of contaminated goods.

Track and trace

software, which integrates into warehouse management systems (WMSs) enables companies like yours to comply with government regulations and allows your warehouse or DC to track every step items take – from field or boat to retailer. This way, if a food group is contaminated or has other problems, you can trace it back to its origination, inform consumers of the issue and ensure other items from that farm, for example, aren’t experiencing similar difficulties.

Variety increases, while orders decrease

Other challenges warehouses face related to the increase in reliance on the cold chain is the variety of products continue rising while the number of orders of a certain product is going down. For instance, consumers want to choose from 10 varieties of frozen pizzas rather than one. This causes a change in the logistics and picking process in your warehouse. Workers do more picking to build an often-incomplete pallet and to increase the number of orders going directly to the consumer.

One of our customers recently relayed how much its business model has changed since many of the restaurants and cafeterias it used to deliver to had closed. The company formerly sent out larger quantities to these outlets, but today, deliver more small-quantity orders to customers’ homes, changing the entire logistics process.

Without technology that enabled change and growth, the company could not have survived.

Technology helps reduce energy costs

Automation is key to the success in your warehouse or DC, too. By implementing energy-efficient technology, you can reduce up to 29% of your warehouse’s energy expenditure.

However, the solutions you choose depend on your needs as one size doesn’t fit all. If available space is an issue and you can invest in building a high-bay warehouse, for example, or an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) that optimizes stock movements and increases efficiency.

Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) increase flexibility and either reduce manual labor or enable workers to perform other tasks. And automated guided vehicles (AGVs) help decrease accidents and increase operational efficiency.

Regardless of the solution that works best for your needs, we would be remiss not to touch upon the labor challenges around the cold chain and how technology eases those burdens.

Offset labor challenges with software and automation

Technology helps offset the ongoing labor challenges the cold chain industry faced even before the pandemic

Most areas of the world are experiencing a shortage in labor, which is not a new problem for the cold chain. Working in challenging conditions like -24° Celsius can be grueling, particularly when employees have to remove their gloves to input information into a manual system. Further, in Europe, for example, the amount of oxygen going into cold-chain warehouses is reduced by up to 17% to help decrease the likelihood of fire – making breathing more difficult.

By using

voice-directed technology

, workers don’t have to remove protective gear like gloves as they can speak commands that keep the warehouse supply chain moving. It also reduces the amount of time they need to spend in cold environments since they can complete tasks more efficiently.

Further, software and automation enables companies to create more ergonomic workplaces by doing things to incorporating goods-to-person technology (through AMRs) and voice solutions.

Choose your tech provider carefully

In summary, you can improve energy efficiency and save money in the cold chain with modern software and automation solutions. However, technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution, so look for a provider that can call upon years of experience to understand what systems will work best depending on your needs.

Technology can bring your warehouse energy costs down and make you more sustainable. Whether it’s a

conveyor system

, voice-directed software, AMR or another solution, look to a technology provider that can help find the right technology to fit your warehouse or DC needs, while saving you money now and in the future.

Related solutions

System Integration & Automation

Manufacturing and distribution organizations know that automation can improve efficiencies, maximize space and increase productivity across their supply chains.

Autonomous Mobile Robots

The use of autonomous robots for material handling in logistics.

Voice Directed Warehouse Operations

Systems for voice-directed warehouse operations.

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