Warehouses come in different types, shapes and sizes to fit any businesses’ needs. For areas such as food industry and certain pharmaceutical industries, warehouses may need to come with some sort of temperature control. In order to store and manufacture perishable and frozen food, the manufacturing operations need refrigeration. This gives us refrigerated warehousing, a useful but surprising complex way companies use to manufacture and supply these frozen goods. In this article we will be looking at the issues around refrigerated warehousing, such as its effect on equipment, cold working and temperature losses.
Effect on Equipment
People aren’t the only things becoming unresponsive when working in cold conditions. Minimised temperatures also influence traditional manufacturing or material handling equipment. Low temperature can make materials more brittle, and can stop machines working for as long. One of the biggest effects of cold working is the effect on batteries. Batteries are very temperature sensitive equipment. Exposure to low temperatures can lead to the degradation of battery lift by as much as 50%. Shorter life batteries affect every kind of battery powered machinery, from small handheld equipment to batteries in forklift trucks.
There are two solutions to this problem employed in cold working environments. The first is to have the devices and equipment especially design for working in cold environments. This involves using seals which can withstand temperature changes and stop condensation build up. This is largely employed for equipment which does not remain inside the cold area. This includes scanning equipment, usually taken in and out the area.
When it comes to larger, more permanent equipment or that which remains longer in cold environments, it becomes tricky. Since a forklift battery life can be hampered by as much as 50% when used in cold environments, the only working solution is to buy a battery for a longer life than is needed. If you need a battery with a life of 8 hours, be safe and buy one with 16 hours of life.
Alternating Temperature Ranges and Cost Savings
Another issue in refrigerated warehouses is the fact that different warehouse need to be at slightly different temperatures depending on the product being stored or processed. For example, vegetable processing warehouses need to be maintained at 12.5ºC whilst meat products need a temperature of around -20ºC. This means there is no universal standard refrigerated warehouse supply and so design varies from customer to customer.
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Companies employ smart design when storing different products at different temperatures. Typically a modular curtain wall system can be of use here. These are non-structural cladding systems, used as a flexible way of insulating two separate areas of different temperature. This system can be of great benefit when a warehouse has constantly changing manufacturing operations.
Temperature losses and Cold Working
Refrigerated warehouses are susceptible to energy losses. The actual act of refrigeration takes up a lot of cost and energy in the first place. Energy becomes lost easily for such a large space. When separating two areas of different temperatures, high speed folding doors are typically used to minimise the amount of time the door is open and energy lost.
Other measures include the shape and arrangement of the warehouse. To conserve energy, it is best to minimise the outside surface area of the warehouse, and closely pack operations together to make a dense mass. High density, rack supported storage may be used and a general packing together of storage operations will be employed to make the area as dense as possible.
There is also the issue of possible cold working. Employees expected to work in cold conditions wear warm clothing. This affects machinery and operation; workers may need to wear big, thick gloves in the refrigerated area. Buttons and controls on machines therefore need to be larger to accommodate this. Refrigerated warehousing is also another excuse to employ further automation. Since robotics are not affected by the cold as much as people, they can continue to operate efficiently even at the lowest temperatures.