Automation has been a buzzword in a wide variety of industries for quite some time, but cold storage companies have been slow to exploit the possibilities of technology until now.
Cold storage automation involves the use of robots to reduce the need for human input in the running of a facility. After a slow initial uptake, thought leaders are now pointing out the benefits of automation in cold storage.
While initial construction costs can be 25-35% higher than for conventional facilities, the return on investment of automated facilities is impressive. This is due to cost savings in labor, energy and land.
Using robots means that fewer forklift operators are needed, which in turn cuts payroll costs and eliminates payroll inflation. Fewer human workers means an end to rising health insurance costs as well as workmen’s compensation insurance.
A further advantage of industrial automation is reduced energy costs. With no need for lights inside the facility, energy consumption falls and the load on the refrigeration system is reduced as there is no need to extract heat produced by warehouse lighting. Not only does this lead to cost savings but it also reduces the carbon footprint of your facility; a boon in these environmentally-conscious times.
Cold storage automation means that facilities can operate with a higher pallet density due to the absence of forklift trucks, allowing facilities to be built with a tighter envelope and lower land costs. Another advantage of industrial automation is improved precision, with fewer human errors, less equipment abuse and fewer unscheduled repair problems. Automated facilities also report less product damage, and tend to be clean and well-organized with a carefully planned product flow.
Anyone with a keen interest in technology may have noticed increasing discussion of the Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to the inter-networking of connected devices. While the IoT has made inroads into our homes, thanks to everything from smart fridges to connected baby monitors, it has taken longer for the advantages of the internet of things to be seen in cold storage.
However Jeff Hedges, director of business development at HK Systems (USA), says that an automated cold storage warehouse with 8,000 or more pallet positions could see 50-75% savings in labor costs and 60-80% savings in energy costs, and with a footprint that is 40-50% smaller to boot.
Understandably there are advantages and disadvantages of the internet of things, but for cold storage the positives outweigh the negatives. Cold storage automation looks set for a major expansion in the next few years as early adopters get used to managing the new systems, and it is worth looking into how industrial automation could benefit your business.
At A-N-C Cold Storage Construction we keep our finger on the pulse of the latest technological developments in cold storage. Ask our expert team members how cold storage automation could help you improve efficiency, cut costs, and increase profitability.
To find out more about our services, download your free cold storage design guide today.