As more consumers turn to e-retailers for just about everything they need, the cold storage supply chain industry is inadvertently forced to enter an era of rapidly changing consumer expectations. For starters, customers are expecting greater speed and accuracy with order fulfillment, and many cold store operators are turning to automation solutions in a bid to meet customer demands.
However, many 3PL providers and businesses are still holding back from investing in automated cold store warehouses. We review the common myths of automating cold store warehouses to sort fact from fiction in this 2-part article series.
Myth #1: Smart solutions increase energy consumption in warehouses
High energy demand is often associated with the operation of cold storage warehouses, as the facilities need to maintain low, stable temperatures 24 hours a day to protect their inventory of temperature-sensitive products. To that end, controlling both energy consumption and operating costs is an important challenge for cold store operators.
This is where it gets interesting: most operators assume that the use of automation solutions increases energy consumption and drives up operating costs, but they can actually help to reduce operating costs. Eliminating manually operated equipment like forklifts in automated warehouses can help to lower energy consumption, as doors to temperature-controlled areas do not need to open as frequently for access. Pallets can also be transported in and out of such areas via conveyors through small door openings, further limiting the amount of warm air that enters the freezer areas. Fully automated layer pickers can help operators pick single and multiple layers swiftly and accurately too, with minimal energy consumption.
Myth #2: Automation replaces manpower and removes jobs
Labor recruitment is a consistent concern for the entire supply chain industry, but the issue is magnified in the cold storage sector as the work environment is notoriously harsh and dangerous. Automated solutions can be used to decouple labor from the necessity of working in low- or sub-zero temperatures. With automated equipment like conveyors, pickers no longer need to enter freezer areas to carry out order picking. Instead, the product will be presented to them, allowing cold store operators to carry out picking operations outside of the cold store warehouse and at same time achieving new levels of safety.
Smart solutions also allow management teams to redeploy warehouse workers to work in other areas like supervision and maintenance, which may be more appealing to younger employees.
For instance, German bread and bakery manufacturer Lieken Brot-und Backwaren reassigned their skilled, market-ready warehouse operators to new roles after installing a variety of automation systems. The combination of the new systems and redeployment helped Lieken achieve higher throughput and rate of accuracy and efficiency. Another leading cold storage 3PL company located in the Netherlands needed a warehousing solution that could scale up and grow alongside the company, which they found in Körber’s multi-deep storage system. With the new system, the customer was able to redeploy staff to higher-value roles that require more specialized skills, knowledge and ability.
Cold chain operators are facing complex challenges, such as rising costs of land space and operating energy, and shortage of warehouse manpower. To stay competitive, cold chain operators must look for supply chain solutions that increase efficiency at minimal cost and energy. With the help of experts like Körber, businesses can effectively and efficiently conquer their supply chain complexities