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The five major challenges of cold store warehouses

04 September 2023

COMPANIES IN the cooling and freezing sector have been working for decades to optimise the complex supply chain needed to keep products refrigerated, all the way to their final destination. Rite-Hite summarise the five most common challenging factors, along with approaches to solving them.

1. Damaged refrigerator/freezer doors

This is one of the problems faced most frequently by cold stores. The first consequence of such damage is that the doors can no longer maintain the specified temperature. And this is supposed to be their main function!

Some doors use smart design to minimise impact damage. For example, there are tightly closing, impact-resistant freezer doors that spring back into their rails if they are hit by, say, a forklift truck. In practice, they initially give way in the event of a collision and then return perfectly to their starting position.

Versions with a graphical interface keep track of how often the door has been hit, or opened unnecessarily, so the user can take action. After all, you want the door to be open as little as possible to keep the temperature constant.

2. Condensation

The formation and build-up of condensation is another common problem in warehouses with different temperature zones. Products may generate excessive moisture if they move too quickly from one zone to another. This can cause wet spots on the floor, resulting in a slip hazard. Of course, condensation may also have negative consequences for the product itself, leading to spoilage in the worst cases.

A good way to reduce and control condensation in foodstuffs is to use tools such as HVLS fans. These create air currents that avoid uneven temperature distributions.

3. Microbes in the refrigerator/freezer compartment

Growth of mould and mildew is a further key challenge in refrigerated warehouses. It can arise from deficient climate control or malfunctioning doors. If properly maintained, the walls of a freezer room or compartment will minimise microbial growth. Some of the best rules to prevent such growth include:

● Don’t spill anything in the freezers

● Choose or design equipment and facilities with tapered or rounded surfaces

● Use lubrication-free components

If mould develops, make sure the freezer is thoroughly cleaned, quickly, to avoid bigger problems.

4. Excessive heat exposure

Sometimes issues arise even before the products enter the cooling/freezing environment. Prolonged exposure to warmer outside temperatures during loading and unloading is a typical situation. Drive-through docks with above-average sealing can minimise this problem.

5. Damaged goods

Factors beyond the influence of the refrigerated warehouse, such as the receipt of damaged shipments, can also impact profitability. There is potential for various mishaps along the supply chain. For instance, products may suffer damage during transport, or temperatures may not be controlled well enough.

The best way of being confident that goods have been kept safe in transit is to use RFID tracking technology. This allows employees to be notified of unforeseen events so that situations can be rectified.

Rite-Hite has written a useful guide on these and other cold store challenges. Download the white paper at www.ritehite.com.