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Automation out of deep-freeze

12 December 2012

The demand for highly-automated, high-bay deep-freeze warehouses is growing says Swisslog.

The demand for highly-automated, high-bay deep-freeze warehouses is growing says Swisslog.

The demand for highly-automated, high-bay deep-freeze warehouses is growing based upon the ability to ensure supply line product integrity, and more cost efficient and energy efficient sub-zero warehouse operation.

This growth is influenced by a number of factors unique to high-bay deep-freeze systems, including:
a) A seamless link on the supply chain for the storage of products at sub-zero temperatures;
b) Faster receiving and retrieval of deep-freeze products;
c) Immediate tracking and identification of products in the facility;
d) Improved inventory and order fulfillment accuracy;
Reduced staff recruitment and retention problems in deep-freeze areas.

High-bays maximise warehouse volume utilisation and optimise energy efficiency. Those high-bay, deep-freeze warehouses that are the most energy and cost efficient have achieved a high density of space utilisation coupled with streamlined automation.

Some of the latest automation designed for deep-freeze include:

ASRS are computer-controlled systems for automatically depositing, storing and retrieving unit loads from defined storage locations. The Swisslog Vectura ASRS provides a flexible and modular design that is equipped with a multi-load remote pallet handling capability, ideal for deep-freeze warehouse automation at its coldest (-28° C).
The system allows configuration to the right storage and retrieval need for almost any application and provides single, double, triple and multi-deep storage.

When a pallet is on the load-handling device it is carried off the ASRS machine into the rack. It can then perform a function called deep-lane storage. Conventional ASRS machines go single, double or triple-deep, using a telescope fork attached to the machine. The Swisslog maxiPacker can run a pallet 12 meters (40 feet) into the racking with its satellite remote unit - as much as 10 pallets deep, and then return back to the ASRS machine.

Automated case picking
Manual case picking in deep-freeze facilities poses significant challenges, both to maintaining product integrity and the safety and retaining of workers. A solution developed by Swisslog, called RoboPick, allows automated case picking to take place inside the deep-freeze, without the need for workers to operate in the sub-zero environment, thus maintaining a constant deep-freeze temperature for products.

Modular conveyors
Transporting unit loads in and out of the deep-freeze requires a conveyor system capable of continuous operation in this extremely cold, harsh environment. To meet this challenge, Swisslog has developed a modular conveyor system called Promove. Promove can adapt to the needs of receiving and input into the deep-freeze, integration with ASRS, and delivery of unit loads to pick stations outside of the deep-freeze.

Load tracking
High-bay deep-freeze warehouses are ideal candidates for the precise and efficient tracking of frozen food products because of their highly-automated and computer-controlled systems. The WMS, along with PLCs in the ASRS and modular conveying system, are capable of monitoring pallet moving, production dates and weight as the unit loads and cases are moved through and stored in the facility.