Cold Collaboration: Customized Logistics In A Refrigerated Warehouse

Alpha Baking Co. and Frozen Asset Cold Storage partnered with Konstant to design a high-rise warehouse.


Mike Meehan, president of Quality Storage Products Inc., Tinley Park, IL, worked closely with Konstant’s president and CEO, Peter McCarthy as well as Alpha and Frozen Assets personnel to design the facility. Meehan notes that the team initially considered both push back and pallet flow rack. Both alternatives, however, would have required too many aisles which could be utilized for storage in the Pallet Runner system.

Given the depth of the system (20-22 pallets), pallet flow rack, was not considered because an entire storage level would have been lost due to the pitch required to make a gravity system work.

“Something like 1,800 pallet positions would have been lost to aisles for forklift access if we’d gone with an exclusively push back rack design. Pallet flow rack would have required only two long aisles, for loading and unloading, but that would still have eliminated 700 spaces, plus the pitch required would have restrained the storage height to just four pallets instead of five high,” Meehan comments.

“Other than a fully automated storage and retrieval system, nothing we found aside from Pallet Runner provided the storage density needed to make the site work. But an AS/RS would have cost a fortune, and also would have locked Frozen Assets into a design that limited flexibility to reconfigure the facility in the future,” he says.

Working closely with Konstant, the team toured several sites to see Pallet Runner at work in various configurations. Once an operational comfort level was achieved, the design was built around Konstant’s nearly 100 foot deep rack system. Construction began at the end of 2007 and the partners moved in and began shipping from the new facility in August 2008.

HOW IT WORKS

The Konstant Pallet Runner GEN3 carts are remote-controlled, powered platforms that run on rails attached to the 24 pallet deep rack structure. The GEN3 cart carries pallets back and forth along the length of a single lane or “tunnel.” The carts are portable, rather than being fixed within each lane. This feature allows users to operate the system with minimal capital investment.

To start, a forklift driver places the cart at the front of a lane at the desired rack level. The driver then keys in a simple command on a preprogrammed, wireless remote control to direct the cart to retrieve or store pallets. Once the instruction is given, the Pallet Runner cart works unattended. The cart delivers the desired number of pallets to the front of the lane for shipping, or in the case of receiving and put away, transporting them deep into the lane for storage.

Only one aisle is required to access pallets within the system. This design resulted in huge space savings over conventional, forklift-serviced, racks. Moreover, the movement of pallets by warehouse personnel is reduced to just ferrying them back and forth between the end of a lane and the warehouse dock for shipping or receiving.

The short distance travelled results in a significant reduction in the man hours and forklift equipment required to move pallets in and out of storage. The short travel distance also improves storage-to-dock turnarounds, lowers energy use, and reduces damage to product, racks and other warehouse equipment.

Tom Wick, Frozen Assets’ operations manager, says put away time is about 40 percent faster with Pallet Runner compared to conventional, forklift serviced racks. “Pallet Runner is actually doing the putaway while the forklift driver can go back to the dock to get the next load.

“We’re getting the same kinds of efficiencies in loading trucks on the outbound side” he adds. Wick notes that the warehouse averages roughly a 45-minute turnaround for transport drivers who arrive on time for appointments.

“We’re talking about a 24 pallet truckload; measured from the time the driver checks in before even backing up to the dock, until the truck is fully loaded, bills are signed, and the driver is ready to get on his way,” Wick points out.

And that level of performance is continuing to improve.

“Recently we hit our best week—logging just a 31-minute turnaround,” he reports. Fritz Bauernschmidt, Alpha’s on-site facilitator at Frozen Assets, estimates that loading time itself, on average, has been cut in half. Moreover, the warehouse manages to operate at such speeds consistently while maintaining an order accuracy rate of 99.95 percent.

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