Automation is on the rise in industrial facilities, food processing plants and cold storage warehouses. At Stellar, we’ve seen more client requests for automation in the past year than ever before.
When people think of automation and cost savings, the obvious usually comes to mind first: labor costs. Projected minimum wage increases and the scarcity of people willing to work in a cold storage environment are driving more owners to invest in automation.
But automating your warehouse can yield more savings beyond just the payroll. Here are six more benefits that you may not have considered.
1. Lower property costs and taxes
Property costs are a big overhead expense for cold storage facilities, especially in more urban areas. One way to save? Building up, rather than out. Automation allows warehouses to have a smaller building footprint since robotic stacker cranes can access much higher shelves than forklift operators.
For example, storing 20,000 pallets of food product in a manual warehouse requires about 150,000 square feet. In a more vertical, automated warehouse, the same number of pallets can be stored with just 70,000 square feet. Less square footage means less land needed to build, which can be a big money saver, especially in major metropolitan areas where property and space come at a premium.
2. Smaller roof area
A smaller building footprint also means a smaller roof area, which is a major factor in energy conservation. As much as 70% of heat gain in a low-temperature building comes from the roof, so the smaller the roof, the easier it is to keep the building cold. This yields big energy savings for automated facilities.
3. Low-oxygen fire protection system
Compared to conventional fire protection systems designed for human occupancy, an automated warehouse can use hypoxic air technology, also known as a low-oxygen fire suppression. Unlike traditional fire suppression systems that typically extinguish fire after it’s detected, hypoxic air can prevent fire. The lower oxygen levels, though not permitted in occupied spaces, reduce the opportunity for ignition in an unoccupied warehouse. Plus, these systems are typically cheaper to install.
4. Smaller pallet doors
Traditional warehouse doors are designed to accommodate pallets and the forklifts that carry them. However, in an automated facility, cranes move the boxes and you only have to convey the pallets themselves through the doors. These smaller doors reduce air leakage, keeping your facility cooler and making your refrigeration system work less. Translation: Energy savings.
5. Greater control over freezer access
Automated robotics are efficient and only access the freezer as needed. They’re not going to leave the freezer door open longer than necessary and they won’t forget to close it behind them. This reduces the load on your refrigeration system, which extends its life, and reduces energy consumption.
6. Improved product integrity
The risk of damage is higher when products are handled manually. Automation eliminates the risk of human error, ensuring product quality isn’t compromised during its time in the warehouse. Mishaps and damaged products in a traditional warehouse cost time and money, whereas automated cranes save both.
A faster return on investment
As automation technology has become more affordable, its return on investment is being realized sooner. In addition to providing solutions to the rising cost of labor and labor shortages, these secondary benefits above are leading more cold storage operators to invest in robotics and automated systems. And in a time when consumer demand for fresher, healthier food is on the rise, the value of efficient cold storage distribution is only predicted to grow.
Do you have questions about automating your cold storage facility? Have any automation success stories of your own? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org