Keeping it Cool with Cold Chain Storage

Have you ever opened the wrapper of an ice cream bar and seen obvious signs of melting and refreezing? If so, you’ve experienced firsthand a cold chain failure. When it happens with ice cream or chocolate, the results are disappointing. When it happens with medications, the consequences can be deadly.

That’s one reason warehouses can command higher prices for cold storage. If you’ve been thinking of offering cold storage services, read on!

Preventing Cold Chain Fail

What is the Cold Chain? 

The cold chain refers to the chain of custody that tracks heat-sensitive products from production to final sale. It includes monitoring and tracking goods from the point of manufacturing, onto the refrigerated trucks that bring them to distribution centers, into the warehouses that store them, back onto refrigerated delivery trucks, and to the business or retail locations where they are stored and displayed until the end-user (or consumer) takes over.

Monitoring the cold chain is a way to ensure that products are kept in a cold, dry, and controlled environment until they are with the end-user. For these products, cold storage cuts the risk of spoilage and slows the rate of product decay by controlling ambient temperatures and monitoring the amount of humidity and airborne bacteria to ensure they are within established, acceptable ranges for the products.

Proper cold storage equipment is critical to the success of warehouses storing and distributing products that fall into the cold chain category.

What is Cold Storage? 

The cold storage warehouse ensures proper temperature management for perishable products. To maintain the quality and safety of each product line stored, the client specifies the environmental requirements that must be met. These conditions can range from flash freezing to humidity control. Items typically included in the cold chain category are perishable commodities like: 

  • Pharmaceuticals and vaccines 
  • Medical products 
  • Perishable food and beverages 
  • Live plants 
  • Film (from both still photography and videography)
  • Wax products
  • Artwork 

In the warehouse, cold chain responsibilities begin as soon as products arrive at the dock. Pallets and barcoded labels are scanned as they leave the truck and enter the facility. Goods must be checked in, inspected, weighed, labeled, and put away quickly in the right environment. A key factor is being able to record and manage stock rotation requirements, such as first in, first out (FIFO) or first expiry, first out (FEFO). Only then are products available for picking and shipping on refrigerated or freezer trucks as needed.

Meeting Cold Storage Requirements

To be a successful bidder for a cold storage job, it is essential to understand your customers’ cold storage specifications upfront.

  • What products do they want to store, in what quantities, and at what temperature(s)?
  • Are there any restrictions or requirements for lighting, air monitoring, stacking, etc.?
  • Will new products be introduced over time? How often and in what quantities?
  • Will all items have the same cold storage specifications? If not, be sure to get detailed requirements by product.
  • Discuss expiration date lot tracking and how that will be managed. The WMS must have a ‘First Expire First Out’ capability to ensure that the oldest lot is picked first to reduce spoilage. Also, WMS should be capable of enforcing and tracking manufacturing recalls.

    Once expectations are established and compliance regulations are defined, it’s time to start ongoing temperature, humidity, atmospheric, and lighting monitoring. For cold storage, real-time monitoring and signal alerts are a necessity. In many cases, you’ll need to record the monitoring data over time to prove the products were maintained within spec. This information is often required by governing or regulatory agencies as well. Cadre’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) software works with your control systems to provide you with accurate data and easy systems reporting. 

Cold Storage Safety and Maintenance

Even before your systems are operational, it’s important to include plans to protect your employees, especially those who will need to spend time in the cold storage areas. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes guidelines for cold weather workers that covers topics such as dressing properly, taking regular breaks, what to look out for, and other safety tips. Rack repair company Apex published these 8 Steps to Keep Your Cold Storage Warehouse & Employees Safe.

Maintenance of your cold storage area is also essential to ensure your operations run smoothly and to avoid future problems. Stancold UK, a cold storage design, supply, and installation company, has a blog post where you can read an expanded version of these seven tips to improve your cold storage efficiency: 

  1. Keep condenser units clean
  2. Ensure doors are sealed
  3. Check evaporator coils regularly
  4. Keep an eye on walls and ceiling
  5. Use proper lighting for each type of product
  6. Continually monitor temperature
  7. Have an inspection and maintenance schedule

Cold storage warehousing is not for everyone. It comes with additional monitoring and environmental requirements, with additional maintenance and employee training. However, it expands the type of products your warehouse can take on — and at a higher fee. Best of all, if you are already using Cadre’s Cadence WMS, it’s ready to support your cold storage requirements. Have a question about how you can get in on the cold storage boom? Contact Cadre today.