2017 Cold Storage Industry Update3PL cold storage warehouses meet the dynamic, complex requirements when handling & storing perishable foods
What’s Going on in Today’s Cold Storage Warehouse?
Today’s food supply chain is changing. Consumer tastes, needs
The 3PL cold storage industry has experienced significant consolidation and competition for business is fierce. As with other supply chain businesses, efficiency and cost containment are critical concerns.
Nearly gone are
These tendencies have created some instability in the industry and made 3PL cold storage warehouses less willing to invest in new technologies. Concern about investment ROI has resulted in a stalemate for some 3PLs, unable to attract and win new clients by providing what they most desire and expect.
Years ago, the business of public refrigerated warehousing was relatively simple. Pallet-in, pallet-out was the order of the day. Today, 3PL cold storage warehouses are getting pushed from all sides due to workforce shortages, constant need to reduce costs, compete, win and retain customers and meet regulatory requirements. Now in addition to meeting those challenges, 3PLs need to be able to provide an array of
More is now expected of 3PLs. Today, the 3PL cold storage warehouse is expected to take the information on the lot that needs to be shipped, consider the specifications of the retailer and allocate the inventory that meets those requirements without input from the shipper. Public refrigerated warehouses are expected to assemble perfect orders based on retailer requirements such as pallet height or pallet type and other issues. 3PLs work in an incredibly
This proliferation of SKUs means that picking efficiency is reduced. Reduced picking efficiency leads to added costs.
Refrigerated food products by their nature tend to have a shorter shelf life. Partially because of this, there
3PL Cold Storage Warehouses and Value Added Services
- Case picking
- Custom pallet building
- Postponing food processing for just-in-time fulfillment of special orders
- High pressure processing (HPP)
- Preparation of proteins for export
- High temperature short time heating (HTST)
- X-ray of product packages
- Blast freezing
- Packaging and labeling
- Product preparation of produce (washing, mixing, etc.)
- Weighing and pricing
- Portion packaging
Mobile Computers in the Cold Storage Warehouse
Handheld mobile computers used in cold storage warehouses need to be designed with buttons that are large enough to be felt through work gloves. Designed to enable the exchange of information in the harshest of environments, mobile computing device touchscreens must be sensitive enough to respond to a gloved touch rather than from that of an uncovered finger.
Refrigerated Warehouses and Automation
Automation in cold storage warehouses is more frequently seen in Europe and less often in the U.S. largely due to cost. European companies adopted automation early because of labor costs and constraints.
Automation is often constrained in 3PL cold storage warehouse environments partially because they service multiple clients within a facility. Work such as automating pallet movements is sometimes done but picking less than pallet quantities, physically loading outbound trucks and selecting orders is typically not.
One way that automation is being used in cold storage warehouses now is to decouple labor from the necessity of working in a sub-zero environment. An example of this is the delivery of product from a freezer to warmer environment in preparation for picking. Some vendors have noticed a trend in the types of doors that are being installed between ambient and cold areas of the warehouse, such as smaller conveyor doors rather than large doors to freezers.
This potentially can result in significant savings. Additional changes include the use of “pick tunnels”, warmer spaces used as ancillary areas in which picking is done manually and ergonomically in a more comfortable environment.
Over the past few years, there has been more emphasis on changing the model, an increased focus on specialization in order to justify automation and create more efficient operations. 3PLs are working hand-in-hand to create operations that provide better rates for specific services. In turn, customers are often more inclined to sign longer term agreements. To do this, often 3PLs determine the commonality and consistency in handling and storage specifications for products then utilize a material handling system around this premise. This can be useful in attracting clients with the same or similar products to a facility with specialized expertise in handling them.
The refrigerated warehouse industry has undergone considerable change over the past decade. More manufacturers are choosing to outsource the handling, storage, order fulfillment and shipment of their perishable goods to 3PL cold storage warehouses. Industry consolidation has reduced the number of operators and several large enterprises tend to dominate the market.
Today, there is a greater burden than ever before on 3PL cold storage warehouse operators. The increased level of operational complexity, SKU proliferation, retailer requirements and customer demands and expectations present challenges to 3PL cold storage operators. With customers who are less likely to sign long term agreements and the high level of competition, 3PLs are squeezed from both ends.
3PL cold storage operators present new value to shippers by providing them with a wider range of
Mobile technology and automation are important facets of every day operations in refrigerated warehousing. Mobile computing devices enable the flow of
Industrial grade mobile computing devices are used in refrigerated warehouses and include larger buttons that can be felt through cumbersome work gloves, seals to protect devices from temperature shifts and internal heaters.
Automation is most frequently implemented in refrigerated warehouse facilities that process a high volume of the same type of product for a single manufacturer. 3PLs are more willing to focus on and provide automation and specialization for specific customers if they sign