Shifting the focus on cold storage solutions

Paul Waldeck, executive director, Ambrey Baker Industrial Solutions, explores where cold storage experts should shift the focus over the coming months.

Sleaford, UK: Meeting the demand for effective cold storage solutions has only intensified in the wake of the recent Covid-19 pandemic. The stockpiling that seized the UK in the early stages drew stark attention to the need for made-to-last options which provide longevity, security and adequate space for supplies. Our industry has had to adapt fast, and plan for a changed future.

As we face the ‘new normal’, industry leaders are starting to think differently. There has been greater interest around increased capacity in both independent buildings and infill temperature-controlled facilities; further incorporation of next-generation technologies, such as retrofit automation on the facility floor and increasing Covid-security with UVC installations to evaporators; and enhanced visibility across the supply chain.

Paul Waldeck, executive director, Ambrey Baker Industrial Solutions,

Creating space
Spacious areas have become critical in cold storage. At Ambrey Baker, we have received multiple enquiries recently around extending existing warehouse spaces and remodelling existing buildings, or creating new ones. Food, drink and pharmaceutical businesses want to increase their capacity and future proof their business – as well as operate more safely.
Social distancing in the workplace is now the norm, and will be for the foreseeable future. There are elements of the logistics supply chain, such as transport, where this does not apply. But for manual operators in storage facilities who work in close proximity, remodelling of, and extensions to, warehouses have become completely necessary for the safety and wellbeing of operatives.

With this in mind, it’s critical that cold storage construction professionals are prepared to accommodate any request from clients. Whether it’s developing brand-new storage facilities from the ground up, or extending existing buildings to be bigger and better, equipped with the latest materials handling equipment and technology, and appropriate storage strategies.

Technological innovation
We already know the critical role that the latest technology plays when it comes to cold storage solutions. Efficient electromechanical thermostats automatically detect and – when needed – adjust room temperatures, while ensuring they remain optimal.

The market options for construction professionals are vast, and competitive. Traditional electromechanical thermostats, while cost-effective and reliable, typically control the compressor alone. So, potential for additional energy savings offered by integrating control of the compressor, evaporator fan, and defrost heater cannot be fully realised.
By using an electronic thermostat or controller, the entire system can work together, providing better energy efficiency and a more stable internal temperature.

Thermostats, and the wider cold storage facility, can be monitored via electronic controllers. Often these are also able to record data such as power consumption, even down to the detail of how frequently the door of your unit is opened over a certain time. This level of information-gathering technology has become key for customers as they expect smart tech to enhance their system.

Another element of cold storage design that has become a main consideration following coronavirus is UVC light technology. UVC can provide suppliers with many significant benefits when it comes to ensuring use-by dates are as long-lasting and safe as possible.

UVC reduces microbial contamination of air and food surfaces within cold and chill stores and the refrigeration units. These should be installed in conjunction with timers, sensors and interlocks to help minimise the risk of potentially harmful personal UV light exposure, so your employees stay safe.

UV light tech has also been proven to reduce the bioload of the coronavirus in the air of operations and storage rooms, which is a requirement under Workplace Regulation 6. This means that products which are contaminated from external agents are restored quickly and effectively.

Clearly, UV lighting should be applied as part of a comprehensive sanitisation and Covid-secure workplace management regime, to reduce health and safety risk and boost the lifespan of products.

Long-lasting insulation
Another key consideration when it comes to providing lasting temperature control is high quality insulation. High quality thermal insulators should create a barrier that prevents the transmission of heat energy and maintains internal temperatures. To do this, it is important to select the right materials, design and installation.

Employing trusted in-house insulation installers, who are tried and tested experts, is one way to ensure the job gets done to the required standard. It’s also worth investing that bit more: in steel faced perimeter kerbs and good quality bollards, as well as goalpost arrangements to protect doors and the envelope’s thermal integrity.


Insurance premiums
As often occurs after times of disaster, the insurance industry changes to recover its losses. With clients now looking to remodel and extend their cold and chill store facilities, so comes the risk of higher premiums – unless mitigation measures can be deployed.

In addition to automatic fire detection systems or sprinklers, we are seeing more requests for the installation of LPC Approved two and four-hour fire-rated compartment walls. It is important to bring insurers into the loop early in the design process to ensure that there are no financial surprises or delays.

It’s no secret that times are changing across multiple industries, and on a global scale. The pandemic has created a sector shake-up for logistics, and we need to be fully prepared for whatever the future holds.

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