COLD CHAIN 101
Sustainability in the supply chain is not about being trendy. Customers are paying more attention to their carbon footprint, and evidence shows that they want to partner with a 3PL that upholds those same environmental and social standards. So how can you do your part when you own and operate power-hungry temperature-controlled warehouse facilities? Follow these examples from Americold, a single source for temperature-controlled supply chain solutions.
Measuring your energy: Responsible energy conservation can lower power usage and your carbon footprint, and that’s one thing customers want to see. So just like we manage and measure our productivity levels, we do the same with our energy usage. Commercial refrigeration is an energy-intensive activity and power consumption is one of our largest expenses. Americold installed real-time energy metering technology in all of its U.S. facilities, which allows energy usage to be managed centrally. The 3PL can even pinpoint specific energy usage peaks and troughs that help build up patterns, enabling power-demand forecasting. Engineered metrics defined what “normal” power consumption parameters are for each facility at specific occupancy levels. Meter readings based on those parameters helped develop tolerances, and alerts notify local energy teams of fluctuations, allowing for energy usage to be returned to established levels quickly.
Demand Response programs: Americold participates in as many Demand Response programs that it can in the United States, and similar programs for facilities in Australia and New Zealand are being investigated. A Demand Response program is a partnership with a local power utility company where commercial customers agree to reduce their power draw in times when peak power demand is forecasted. This helps utility companies normalize power generation and can delay, and in some cases omit, the need to bring additional power generation facilities online. Americold can do this intermittently with no adverse effect on the environment within its facilities.
Alternative energy options: Americold is experimenting with solar power generation and natural gas fuel cells as alternative energy solutions. For example, its Salinas, California, facility uses a natural gas fuel cell to generate more than 6 million kWh of electricity per year. Using natural gas as an energy source reduces the facility’s carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) output by over 1 million pounds per year when compared to traditional power generation methods. In 2013, Americold’s Gloucester, Massachusetts, site was equipped with roof-mounted solar power units that generate up to 500,000 kWh of clean energy per year, helping offset local power demand. New Americold facilities are equipped with motion-sensing LEDs, and many other sites are being retrofitted with motion-sensing LEDs rather than metal halide bulbs to ensure lighting is only activated when there is motion or activity in specific areas of facilities.
Partnerships that make a difference: Americold adheres to SMARTWAY guidelines for truck operations, and its IT data centers swap renewable energy credits for power consumption with Switch. Out of a belief that well-maintained facilities and refrigeration systems operate more efficiently, the 3PLs since 2015 has worked with Cascade Refrigeration experts to tune up and optimize refrigeration systems.
A little bit every day soon adds up: Since 2010, Americold has saved more than 435 million kWh of energy, which is enough to power nearly 40,000 homes for a year. Convert that saved kWh into CO2e, and the 3PL has avoided more than 365 million pounds of CO2e from being released into our atmosphere.
Americold’s sustainability initiatives can complement its customers’ own initiatives, and because commercial refrigeration is an energy-intensive activity but a necessity for our modern lives, the 3PL vows to continue searching out new processes and practices in sustainability, vowing to share its findings as it goes. (Ted Royals, manager of Energy, Americold)
RACK & ROLL’S FLOATINGAISLE BOOSTS COLD STORAGE CAPACITY
Edgewater, Florida-based Rack & Roll Inc. patented FloatingAisle storage and retrieval system is dramatically increasing the capacity of warehouses and cold storage facilities. Operators can now use up to 90 percent of a building footprint for storage, and in many cases completely eliminate the expense of new building construction. Access to any pallet in the warehouse can be achieved within seconds, creating additional efficiencies in retrieval time, energy and labor.
The FloatingAisle is comprised of a racking system on rails with each electrically powered carriage and motor providing lateral motion for vertically stacked pallets in the warehouse’s existing configuration. The carriages can move singularly or in a group. This patented feature eliminates the need to move the entire row of racks to access one pallet. A new aisle and access to any pallet can be created anywhere in the storage area in under 30 seconds. The system is controlled by a proprietary hardware and software system managed by a simple, easy-to-use touch screen. An infrared detection system prevents accidents throughout the system.
“Whenever appropriate we have made use of mechanical and electrical components that have been standard in the industry for 30 years,” says Sonia McKenzie, Rack & Roll’s vice president of Engineering. “We have built in redundancies and safeguards that will insure reliable operation in any application. The control system has undergone extensive testing.” (Todd Mathews)
WHY IS CHINA’S COLD CHAIN INFRASTRUCTURE UNDERDEVELOPED?
It seems like a Catch-22: China is a country that has a growing demand for fresh food and could offer huge opportunities for exporters of perishables. Yet Chinese companies haven’t yet made the required investments in cold transportation, storage and distribution infrastructures to take care of the growing taste for fresh food among China’s more affluent consumers.
According to a recent report, shippers’ concerns over liability prevent them from offering door-to-door perishables services. They perceive that were they to deliver direct to consumers, they will become liable for any tainted produce that may arrive. That, according to the report, is why door-to-door supply chains have not emerged in the Chinese perishables market even have they have elsewhere in the economy.
Perishables shippers want frequent updates on the conditions of their cargo. But this scrutiny usually doesn’t extend beyond the airport of entry into China. Ironically, Chinese consumers’ growing demand for imported perishables is driven largely by concerns over domestic food quality.
According to a report from a European bank that studied the issue, “China’s demand for fresh, safe and high-quality food is outstripping its capacity to produce and deliver domestically. The growth in consumption of perishable food in China will only continue if supply chains deliver on quality and safety. To a large extent this depends on the proper cooling of products during storage, handling and transport.” Investments in perishable storage capacity and distribution channels are one of the keys to making this opportunity a reality, the report finds. (Peter Buxbaum)