When refrigeration meets automation: a perfect warehouse match

06 June 2019

Storing goods below zero or refrigerating them has a direct impact on an installation’s operating costs. Cold-storage warehouse managers focus on three issues:

Companies such as Iberfresco, Schaal Chocolatier or Dafsa shared these challenges, besides the specific tests each one faces in running their business. All of them relied on Interlake Mecalux's experience to lead their warehousing logistics projects. And here’s a hint: automated systems and warehouse management software were essential in reaching their goals.

The challenge of maximizing freezer space: Iberfresco’s success story

Iberfresco, a frozen vegetable packaging specialist in Valladolid (Spain), needed to centralize all its goods storage to reduce overhead costs for handling more than 25,000 tons of products in several different facilities. It had 3,000 m2 of available space to make this happen.

The solution provided by the Mecalux Group for the Iberfresco warehouse included the supply and installation of Moviracks, i.e., racks set on mobile bases, for two refrigerated stores. This is a space-saving storage system with a degree of automation, allowing the mechanized movement of pallet-loaded racks.

Movirack mobile shelving has increased the capacity of Iberfresco's refrigerated warehouse
Movirack mobile shelving has increased the capacity of Iberfresco's refrigerated warehouse

Optimum use is made of storage space thanks to the savings in the area usually spent on aisleways. It is ideal for medium-sized freezer stores whose height does not reach more than 11 meters upwards, such as those at Iberfresco. In a frozen-storage warehouse run at a constant temperature of -11 ºF, this translates straight into a drastic, beneficial drop in the installation's power costs.

Schaal Chocolatier's automated warehouse manages different temperature-controlled areas

Schaal Chocolatier is a leading maker of luxury chocolate product in France and one which exports worldwide. Conserving your finished and semi-finished products requires temperature-controlled storage to maintain their quality intact. It was also necessary for the solution to cater to the specific features of this business, which records peaks in business activity centered around Christmas and Easter.

As its expansion grew, dedicated warehousing space within the factory proved insufficient and unsuitable. Mecalux then designed a new automatic storage system for Schaal Chocolatier.

The cold-storage warehouse, connected to its production center, carries out inflows and outflows via a conveyor circuit. A shuttle takes the pallets to the front of the racks, where the automatic stacker cranes pick them up and slot them. With such a steep seasonality in play, the warehouse is ready to respond to a 33 % boost in demand during peak months (from 180 pallets per day to 240).

The Easy WMS warehouse management system governs all warehouse operations, applying a strict FIFO criterion and ensuring accurate tracking of all goods. As some aisles run at 57 ºF and others at 41 ºF, the software also manages the SKUs’ distribution according to their rotation and required temperature.

A rack-supported warehouse with refrigerated zone, the most efficient solution for Dafsa

The Dafsa cold store is a perfect example of the advantages that come with an automated rack-supported structure. This compaction solution not only maximizes storage capacity, but also meets all cleaning requirements, which are extremely demanding as it makes juices, vegetable purées and horchata (tigernut milk).

Warehouse layout from the Dafsa cold-storage installation which marks out the different temperature zones
Warehouse layout from the Dafsa cold-storage installation which marks out the different temperature zones

The Dafsa warehouse has a storage area at room temperature and a refrigerated storage area separated by an automatic door. SAS (Security Airlock System) buffers are installed at the entrances to receive and dispatch goods, ensuring, all the while, the cold chain is not broken.

The AS/RS stacker cranes for pallets move the goods from the racks as per the product-person strategy, and the anthropomorphic robots and wrappers assist in palletization tasks. All operations of this rack-supported warehouse are run by the Easy WMS by Mecalux.

The challenges facing temperature-controlled warehouses are many and by no means trivial. If you are looking for expert advice, feel free to get in touch: a Mecalux specialist will study your business situation and design a solution targeted at your refrigerated storage. We are a solid choice with more than 50 years’ experience under our belt.