Lift Truck Tips: Happy operator, happy operation in cold storage

Specially designed cold storage lift trucks take a bite out of historic productivity drains.

By ·

The challenges of the cold chain are most pronounced in the cold storage warehouse, an expensive and intensive exercise in labor and asset management. Perry Ardito, general manager for Jungheinrich warehouse products group with MCFA, says cold storage managers have become too comfortable with the level of discomfort. He argues that readily available lift truck technologies can increase productivity, decrease costs and keep cold storage lift truck operators comfortable.

Ardito places the most emphasis on keeping the lift truck operator warm. In many freezers, the operator is compelled to leave every 20 minutes to warm up. It’s bad for both job satisfaction and productivity.

“If any other business lost 50% of productivity, they’d be hard-pressed to remain profitable,” says Ardito.

This grind leads to high turnover and a shallow talent pool for lift truck operators, whose desire to get the job done hastily can result in damage to equipment, racks, product and expensive insulation panels.

“Imagine you have to stand up in your office all day, then someone turns down the temperature to freezing,” says Ardito. “It’s probably not a place you’re going to retire from. Labor is expensive, and finding operators who are experienced—or even willing to do the work—can be difficult.”

Some argue automation is the solution, and that the cold chain might be the first materials handling segment to be completely handed over to robots.

“That’s an interesting idea,” says Ardito. “The use of automation has grown, but it will always be evaluated by cost and ROI. Cold storage is expensive enough. How much labor can you remove and still justify that cost?”

A more practical solution, he says, starts with installing a lift truck fleet with heated and seated cabs. The tremendous increase in productivity is sure to maximize ROI, according to Ardito.

In addition, each time a truck leaves the refrigerated space, its electronic components and steel are subject to condensation and gradual corrosion. A lift truck should be robustly designed, says Ardito, with insulated electronics to prevent premature failure. Another approach is to limit the number of times the truck has to leave the freezer.

In cold environments, the average lift truck battery life cycle and rate of charge decline by as much as 20% to 50%. A battery rated for an 8-hour cycle in ambient warehouses might only last 4 to 6 hours.

“Now you need more labor and downtime to swap out batteries, and more actual batteries to keep in rotation,” says Ardito.

Higher voltage batteries improve run-time. If rated for 12 hours in ambient conditions, the battery will still operate for a full shift even with a 25% cycle reduction.

With a heated cab, a comfortable seat, and a lift truck that will run until quitting time, a cold storage lift truck operator might soon pass in and out of the freezer just once per day.

Rugged lift trucks have the cure cold environments
Cold storage warehouse operation moves millions of pounds of product monthly with reliable lift truck fleet.


About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Mobile Solutions: Improving Supply Chain Efficiencies
To meet customer's ever-increasing service expectations and improve their business efficiency, companies are looking to their supply chain operations – especially material handling and warehouse operations managers.
Download Today!
From the February 2017 Modern Materials Handling Issue
In warehouses and DCs, planning solutions tend to take a back seat to execution system functions. Vendors are working to boost the trust factor using tools that break down forecasts and blend with analytics.
Automated Storage on the Move
Receiving 101: Setting the Table for Success
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
2016 Warehouse/DC Operations Webcast: Confronting omni-channel complexity
During this webcast we’ll examine the current activities, trends, and best practices in warehouse and DC operations management and how companies plan to address complex issues associate with omni-channel fulfillment.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Johnson & Johnson: A vision for automation
J&J Vision Care brings together a variety of automated technologies, including an innovative...
Using AGVs at LEDVANCE
The lighting manufacturer reaped savings by reducing maintenance costs and product damage, and using...

System Report: Sustainable Distribution at REI
Specialty outdoor retailer REI’s new distribution center brings together the next generation of...
System Report: Whirlpool puts mobile robots to work
In Whirlpool Corp.’s Clyde, Ohio, factory, mobile robots have automated the delivery of parts to...