Planned equipment maintenance is step one for cold chain warehouse management

Any facility manager knows that when equipment fails or begins to deteriorate, operations can slow down or, even worse, come to a screeching halt.

Though every facility relies on working equipment, there’s one type of warehouse where machinery is especially important to not just the bottom line, but public safety as well: refrigerated warehouses. When something goes wrong with equipment in cold storage warehouses, inventory is put at risk. As such, cold storage facility managers must ensure that proper maintenance is carried out to avoid equipment failure and the subsequent spoilage of inventory.

One small malfunction could produce an inordinate amount of residual damage in the form of food contamination, loss of reputation and heavy regulatory fines.

The importance of cold chain

A report from Research and Markets shows that the global cold chain market has grown over the past few years, and is on track to reach a valuation of $381.68 billion by 2025.

Cold storage provides food producers a means to keep products fresh while they await disbursal throughout the company’s market. Because of this, these facilities have played a major role in reducing the amount of food that goes to waste every year. Research and Markets also pointed out that cold chain development is also critical for the continued growth of the food industry.

According to data collected from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, several food products have reached record high levels of inventory so far this year. In the USDA’s April 2017 Cold Storage survey, 1.36 billion pounds of frozen fruit were being stored, as well as 1.96 billion pounds of frozen vegetables in cold storage.

While food storage accounts for the majority of cold storage square footage, these facilities are also vital for pharmaceutical products as well as some petrochemical and electronic products.

Planned equipment maintenance is necessary

As the food industry, among others, incorporates more cold storage facilities, whether to preserve products for longer periods of time or to cater to a  larger consumer base, it’s critical that facility managers and personnel working at these locations are trained in the operation and maintenance of the equipment. These facilities utilize specialized equipment, so continual training and education regarding these machines should be a priority.

Some of the biggest priorities for facility managers of cold storage warehouses are the entryways to the climate controlled area, Modern Materials Handling reported.

“If a cooler door is down, that could be detrimental to our operation,” Jamie Marines, a warehouse manager in McCook, Illinois. “We cannot afford to lose an opening. We are hard on things, and that’s why we need durable doors.”

Marines went on to state that losing functionality in just one door could decrease shipping capacity as much as 30 percent.

The doors in these facilities must be more than just operational, though. Employees need to move in and out of these entrances quickly, so as to keep the cold air in, and the warm air out. A door that’s beginning to slow down in its opening or closing can negatively impact the temperature within the cold room. Additionally, vehicles like forklifts must be able to get through doorways quickly, so that the door can close behind them.

An important system that many of these facilities have is a series of LED safety lights that let workers know when it’s safe to move quickly through entrances to avoid collision with other equipment or co -workers. This comprises lights affixed to the doorframe that flash to let them know when a door is about to close, and again when it really is closing. If these lights go out, or the system fails in another way, the facility can become dangerous to employees.

Regular and continual maintenance on specialty doors and any equipment going through them reduce the chance that something will unexpectedly go wrong and cause a disruption to operations.

A hold-up can have far-reaching consequences to a company’s target market. For example, an accident at a Maine refrigerated facility recently caused a pause in delivery, according to the Bangor Daily News. The situation was caused by a mechanical failure in a truck, which led a fire that then spread to the warehouse. Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire. However, the disruption to the cold chain resulted in several stores across Maine lacking fresh produce and some other cold products.

To avoid hold-ups in operations, spoilage that could lead to lost inventory or harmful bacterial growth, and to keep a cold chain facility as safe for workers as possible, it’s critical that all equipment is in excellent shape. Key equipment should have daily inspections, in addition to more in-depth evaluations conducted monthly, quarterly and annually.

Facility managers who want to ensure their warehouses have the highest quality of preventative maintenance (and emergency maintenance should something go wrong) can reach out to Miner. We can work with you to set up a service schedule to ensure any emerging issues with your equipment is spotted right away and addressed before it causes a disruption to your business.