Consumers increasingly want to know exactly where their food has come from, and how far it has come. “Farm to fork” is a common, simple-sounding concept. However, facilitating it in a genuine “retail-friendly” way involves complex infrastructure – which often falls to the warehouses. All of this puts an immense amount of pressure on cold chain logistics providers.
These changes have created an urgent need for high-level services to enable these systems to run efficiently.
Challenges in Cold Chain Storage
The stakes are high for temperature-controlled food which requires a fast turnaround. Additionally, the standard of technology needed to keep temperatures consistent throughout the cold chain is what makes this segment such a challenge. Cold storage strategies are also designed to minimize waste and therefore save money and improve supplies in the long run. Most recently, increasingly strict regulations and new retail pressures call for a higher level of accountability from logistics partners. And this doesn’t even address the public relations minefield of product recalls.
Food safety regulations differ by country. They are focused on public health to ensure food can be safely recalled if there is a problem. It’s the responsibility of logistics providers to be able to pull the data necessary for swift recalls.
Retailers are also facing greater pressure from customers to deliver items quickly, directly to the consumer, including fresh produce. As a result, retailers are placing smaller and more diverse orders which stretches the capabilities of the cold chain ecosystem.
How can you address them?
Ensuring traceability via warehouse management or track and trace software. Real-time data and traceability are crucial for product tracking, recall capacity, and consumer transparency. Customers need widespread traceability to assist with maintaining “farm to fork” visibility, to comply with both regulations and customer expectations. Enterprise software will also need to maintain “continuity of conditions” in facilities and vehicles, which is in line with the most efficient technologies.
Warehouse management software in cold storage needs to employ a variety of tracking capabilities from expiration date tracking, lot tracking and control to product rotations and catch weights. Additionally, warehouses need the ability to cross-dock quickly and maintain the highest level of inventory accuracy with real-time visibility. With food, safety, tracking, and accuracy are extremely important.
Transportation management software (TMS) juggles a lot of different parts in cold storage from modes of transport to simultaneously tracking inbound, cross dock, and outboard processing. It’s imperative in the cold storage space to keep time spent in any area minimal for temperature control. TMS helps to optimize routes to minimize the amount of time a truck is on the road. Additionally, a TMS can monitor the trailer and reefer temperature, providing real-time visibility into temperature changes. If the temperature goes outside the correct setting, it will alert the dispatcher.
Voice technology: The nature of voice technology makes it a perfect fit for the freezer environment, especially with its temperature and condensation-proof hardware. The wireless headsets are certified for use in the freezer environment and can withstand temperatures down to -30°C. Both the headsets and their terminals are tightly sealed against condensation and can also come with protection built-in for workers’ ears. Because the units are hands free, workers don’t need to push buttons or touch screens, so they can work faster and more safely. Additionally, the speed and efficiency that comes from deploying voice technology helps to get the worker out of the cold environment as quickly as possible.
Warehouse Modelling & Simulation Software: Using simulation software to plan the most efficient warehouse helps determine the proper layout of cold storage goods to get workers in and out quickly. Intuitive warehouse design systems highlight the areas of the warehouse that need attention and offer the flexibility to plan and test warehouse changes without disrupting day-to-day operations.
Automation: Whether semi or fully automated, cold storage facilities can automate to cut costs, improve labor productivity and achieve compliance. The cold chain is among the harshest environments in the industry, and mechanical and manual processes must be designed accordingly. As a result, investing in automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) and mobile racking helps to keep workers warm and happy, reduce energy and increase productivity.
Robotics: At this stage, use of robots in a temperature-controlled environment is just beginning, but the future looks bright. AMRs can withstand temperatures down to as low as -25°C. Their only current constraint is they are not impervious to condensation when transitioning from freezer to ambient temperature.
Whether you are expanding into a cold storage environment or operation, enhanced tracing capabilities are necessary. Only a sophisticated warehouse management system can provide the level of traceability, data collection and management that the fast and unforgiving cold storage market needs.
You may be experiencing difficulty attracting and training suitable labor for your cold storage warehouse, but automation can help you manage it better.
If you team up with us, you benefit from knowledge and solutions spanning from Enterprise software to hardware, robotics, voice and more with experts specializing in the cold chain space.