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Automated loading pod for refrigerated goods

20 January 2020

Semi-trailers supplier Gray & Adams has designed an automated loading pod, built inside a 15.6m refrigerated body, that holds 60 pallets at -22 degrees C.

Coupled with a 44-pallet capacity double deck trailer, it can be loaded in under seven minutes, automatically. This kind of process has been used in manufacturing for many years, but is said to be a first for the food industry.

Gray & Adams worked in partnership with cold chain firm NewCold Logistics. Initially NewCold had no storage facility for products, meaning that trailers were often used to hold products while awaiting distribution. This process required running fridge engines, creating both carbon and noise.

Tom Cassells, logistics advisor at NewCold, was impressed with loading automation innovations in Germany and wanted to bring this to the UK, for use with double decks. However, most loading bays lack the space required to facilitate auto-loading equipment. 

The, often lengthy, process of loading and unloading refrigerated vehicles costs time and money and can also affect the quality of refrigerated produce. The challenge to Gray & Adams was then to engineer a solution to facilitate auto-loading operations in a temperature-controlled environment to ensure best quality produce and optimised efficiency with reduced loading times.

Known as ‘The Pod’, this innovation ensures cold chain integrity and a fully automated system from factory to store, working in conjunction with auto loading fix double deck semi trailers and including satellite based remote monitoring, a full buffer protection installation frame with an auto loading door and 3 Carrier TRS Iceland refrigeration units. 

It is said to be more environmentally friendly because it uses electric refrigeration to hold the product at temperature until loading is required.

Tom Cassells says: “Having worked with Gray & Adams on our fleet over the last few years, we knew that their engineering expertise and innovative approach would be the perfect fit for our auto loading pod ambitions. It’s transportable, can be built in either outdoor or indoor spaces and has an impressive effect on loading times and efficiencies, as well as ensuring the quality of the produce. It’s a first for the UK and we couldn’t be more proud of the result.”

The concept won the Innovation Award at the recent Temperature Controlled Storage & Distribution (TCS&D) Awards.