Efficient storage of perishable goods
Whether guaranteeing a smooth supply in the supermarket or ensuring that the delivery service functions as it should, maintaining an unbroken cold chain is essential when storing food. In addition to transporting the goods on the last mile from the warehouse to the customer, reliable, air-conditioned storage units are needed in the suppliers’ logistics centers in order to meet the heterogeneous requirements of the products.
Wherever you look, the shipping of food is booming. Hello Fresh’s successful IPO, the constant expansion of Amazon Fresh in Germany, and all the delivery trucks belonging to supermarket chains such as Rewe and Edeka that drive around our cities are visible proof of Germany’s growing trend of having food delivered to people’s homes.
Yet the goods that end customers are able to order at the click of a mouse require a well-thought-out logistics strategy in the background so that the perishable goods are still fresh when they reach the customer. Besides chilled trucks, air-conditioned storage systems are very important for suppliers here. It is vital to maintain an unbroken cold chain and extremely hygienic storage conditions when storing easily perishable goods in air-conditioned units. It is also essential to be able to retrieve the wide product range efficiently and precisely at all times.
One of the most important tasks for retailers is to guarantee compliance with the strict guidelines governing the storage conditions of fresh and easily perishable goods in particular. In smaller storage units, goods can be chilled and cleanly and successfully managed within the warehouse using automated carousel storage systems or storage lifts, where the items are kept under optimal climatic conditions and swiftly retrieved as and when needed.
Air-conditioned storage is highly demanding
Special requirements in relation to storage conditions and the numerous statutory regulations that need to be observed mean that storing food is considerably more complex than storing ordinary consumer goods. As such, a highly diverse range of demands on the customer side have to be met when it comes to chilled storage units:
- Chilled conditions for storing perishable goods
- Frozen conditions for frozen products
- Maintenance of a constant temperature for items that have to be stored within a specific temperature range. This could be anywhere between plus sixty to minus twenty five degrees Celsius
- Controlled humidity: reducing the air humidity to as low as five percent for storing dry goods
- Compliance with the strictest hygiene guidelines and comprehensive protection against dirt and dust
- Complete batch tracking of delivered goods
- Safe and precise access
These requirements can be met in cold storage warehouses. Automated systems in which the goods can be safely stored at the right temperature on the smallest of footprints are much more efficient and save much more space and energy. Many of the systems available on the market can chill goods at temperatures as low as –20 °C. Sealed airtight doors minimize the air exchange during the storage and retrieval process in order to maintain constant temperatures inside the units. In addition, the highly dense storage of the products means that the chilled space can be kept as small as possible. All components are designed to operate at the corresponding temperature so that the storage systems are able to function perfectly. The systems are chilled with environmentally friendly coolants such as carbon dioxide or propane. Overall, in an environment with a controlled climate, the relationship between the actual storage system and the insulation, air-lock function, and ventilation technology plays a key role. It is only possible to prevent unnecessary energy wastage, icing, and condensation if the various functions work in perfect harmony with one another.
Fast order picking and reliable batch tracking are in demand
Fast and accurate picking of the goods is especially essential at peak demand times – such as Fridays, Saturdays, or generally during the afternoon hours – so that they quickly reach the supermarket shelves or customer’s home. Fully automatic and chilled retrieval systems can swiftly retrieve even large-volume orders in next to no time. They make it easy to effectively combine orders into batches – for individual supermarket deliveries or trucks, for example. For even higher accuracy when picking the goods, assistance in the form of RFID chips or pick-by-light systems can be used to identify them. This makes it possible to pick the goods extremely quickly and accurately.
It is especially important to be able to track the route of food from the supplier to the store or customer at all times, because it must be possible to precisely identify the sales channels in the event of spoiled goods and the resulting product recall. A reliable batch tracking system is therefore indispensable. Modern warehouse management software systems help to monitor and manage the process in real time, thereby ensuring that the retailer is well informed of the route and position of individual food deliveries at all times.
Modern storage systems can perform additional functions
In addition to merely storing the goods, retailers often require additional intralogistics services for their goods, such as labelling of products with individual details relating to the brand, weight, price, or best-before date. Modern storage systems are designed to enable individual labelling tasks to be performed at the picking stations. It is also easy to organize compact buffering and sequencing of the food in an interim storage system. The goods can be buffered here for any length of time until they are needed for further shipping or processing.
By being flexible and meeting all of these needs, it is clear that dynamic storage units can also cope with the high demands of the food industry, making them the ideal alternative for efficiently storing and retrieving perishable goods.