Automating cold chain operations

RWTA Conference 2023

Swisslog’s Sean Ledbury and Charles John discuss how to overcome challenges in the frozen food industry, and how to achieve energy savings and better ROI. This was first presented at the 2023 Refrigerated Warehouse and Transport Association of Australia (RWTA) Conference.

The frozen food and cold supply chain industry is facing increasing challenges, with many companies in Australia and New Zealand struggling to keep up with rising energy costs, labour shortages, and other issues

At the 2023 Refrigerated Warehouse and Transport Association of Australia (RWTA) Conference, Swisslog Head of Sales and Consulting, Sean Ledbury, and Swisslog Senior Sales Consultant, Charles John presented on how to overcome these challenges, and maximise the operational footprint of a cold chain with warehouse automation.

Swisslog has implemented more than 2,000 warehouse automation projects in more than 50 countries, and has a proven pedigree in refrigerated warehouse automation solutions.

RWTA Executive Officer, Marianne Kintzel, says, “maximising the integrity of the cold chain in the refrigerated warehouse and transport sector is mandatory to ensure confidence in food quality, every day, for every Australian.”

“Swisslog presented at the 81st RWTA Conference and Exhibition at the Gold Coast and spoke about how automation can support these requirements with state-of-the-art equipment. Automation is a major part of the future of the cold chain,” she said.

Labour shortages

“One of the biggest challenges companies are facing now is labour shortages,” says Ledbury. “Low temperatures make refrigerated warehouses harsh environments, where it is recommended that humans should spend minimal time to avoid hypothermia and other health and safety risks. Using automation to do tasks in freezer areas removes workers from these harsh environments, freeing them up to work in other, more suitable areas,” he said.

Other challenges facing the cold chain industry include changing customer demands, new compliance regulations, and energy consumption. Food production is facing increased challenges too, with water scarcity, soil degradation, deforestation, and reduction in farmers all playing a part in making the supply chain more complex.

Energy savings

Charles John adds that an automated high-bay chilled warehouse can reduce the energy load by as much as 20% compared with conventional more labour-intensive  alternatives. “Not only does it reduce the power bill, but it typically allows for four times more storage within the same building footprint, so you are maximising your use of the available space,” he says.

“This is becoming increasingly important, as industrial land continues to become more expensive in major cities across Australia and New Zealand. Adding capacity without having to purchase a new site can make for a superior ROI.”

Cold chain compliance

Compliance is essential in the cold chain due to the harsh nature of chilled and deep freeze environments, and the strict requirements different food and beverage products need to adhere to.

Automation can help meet these compliance regulations in a number of areas, including:

  • Providing automatic doors with airlocks to efficiently separate the storage area from the shipping area
  • Making sure the cold chain is respected from production to shipping
  • Providing an automatic connection with the production area and the shipping buffer in deep freeze temperatures
  • Creating a cleaner, safer environment, by not needing to use ice
  • Better goods management process and error-free traceability through advanced software

Intelligent software

“Software such as Swisslog’s SynQ can optimise warehouse operations and deliver a range of benefits. It can control order planning, order picking, consolidation, shipping, storage, receiving and putaway, and the benefits extend beyond these tasks, too,” says Ledbury.

SynQ is a software powered by Swisslog that stands for synchronised intelligence. It synchronises people, process, and machines for efficient operations. In addition to being a WMS, it can perform the task of a WCS (Warehouse Control System), or MFS (Material Flow System), and can seamlessly interact with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and e-shop systems.

“In a cold environment, SynQ can control the placement of products, to make sure the right temperature is always maintained for optimum product integrity,” adds Ledbury.

For more information on Swisslog, click here


Send this to a friend