More automation in a cold storage warehouse means keeping employees safe from prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures. To avoid employees spending longer than eight hours in a refrigerated room, some warehouses have begun using robots to help with smaller tasks such as palletizing for extended periods of time.
MMCI has created a high-tech palletizing robot to increase productivity while eliminating human exposure to the freezing temperatures. The robot can handle up to 15 pallets and has its own protective suit to keep its temperature sensitive mechanical parts working in any environment its installed in.
For large-scale operations, often serving international customers, technology is being used to increase the speed of refrigeration and freezing so that products traveling long distances may be delivered with a higher level of freshness and quality. Current robotic technology can hard freeze up to 3,840 cartons of beef in as little as 18 hours — a huge boost to efficiency.
Preventing Spoilage, Reducing Energy
A big objective for cold storage is preventing spoilage. Fortunately robotics can help with this too. By using automated storage and retrieval systems, facilities can now allow for three times the storage density of other warehouses. This works by using a robotic crane to access space that is higher than a human operating a forklift could reach. By reaching new heights, the facility can maximize storage efficiency. For places like India that lose a significant percentage of product volume to waste, being able to fit more into current warehouses could prevent some loss of perishable goods while more facilities continue to built.
Energy use is a huge factor in cold storage. With robotics, companies using automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) can save from 30 to 50 percent in energy from efficient use of space by keeping more merchandise in smaller spaces. Research shows that most energy loss comes from the roofs of cold storage warehouses. A smaller facility that uses its space more efficiently results in less energy lost. And because robotic equipment needs less human interaction, the need for unnecessary bright lights goes down, as does the loss of climate control from frequent door use. Temperature control automation may also be used to monitor any changes and view spikes in temperature or excessive energy usage which can then be dealt with immediately before any additional loss.
Photo credit: TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower