Telematics add degrees of efficiency to cold storage
Freezers are often separate both physically and from a fleet management perspective, but some of the biggest savings lie inside those insulated walls.
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Telematics continue to help cut costs for fleets, but one segment of the industry is keenly feeling the impact: cold storage applications. In these environments, inefficiency of any kind creates tremendous expenses, and fleet management solutions are paying off.
According to John Rosenberger, product manager for iWarehouse Gateway and global telematics at The Raymond Corp., the optimal management of batteries, labor and assets can be very different in cold applications, and technologies are evolving accordingly.
“Many think cold storage is still just rack and pallets, pick and drop, the same as outside, but that’s not true,” Rosenberger says. “Labor standards might be different in a cold environment, based on the restrictions of the equipment an operator wears, battery consumption, smaller aisle widths and taller heights.”
Even if a company wanted to fine-tune the labor standards to reflect the difference between freezers and ambient environments, someone still might need to gear up and enter the freezer to monitor operators with a stopwatch and notepad. Wireless signals often have a hard time penetrating freezer walls, so even those with telematics get little or no data about the equipment performance inside. Rosenberger says customers who install wireless routers to collect data in cold storage spaces typically uncover a few surprises.
“Ideally, trucks will stay in or out of the freezer, but of course most come and go,” he says. “Others are found just sitting in the corner, since freezers can be a black hole for metrics. Either way, telematics are a valuable tool to make sure each lift truck is being utilized as expected.”
Although often impractical, one fleet for inside and one for outside the cooler is ideal. Different power systems are also suited to one or the other. Rosenberger says lithium-ion batteries with a heater appliance can outperform conventional lead-acid batteries, but few customers want two systems. Instead, more lift trucks are specified to work in both environments. If it’s not possible to separate equipment, telematics and operator feedback might indicate that some operators perform better than others in cold areas.
“That’s a place where you might optimize the labor standards for a range in performance from one operator to another,” he says. “If your freezer doors are also connected to telematics, you can see how often they open and close, and which operators are following processes.”
Options like heated seats, handles and floors help keep operators comfortable, and some forklifts feature more cabin space to allow for bulky suits. Some even use the truck battery to power heated suits. Controls might feature larger buttons, and displays can handle cold without dimming or taking too long to update. Cameras on forks or fork-tip lasers can help with positioning at height.
Rosenberger says customers with a lot of the same SKU might use an automated shuttle to ferry pallets from high-density storage to the front of the freezer to minimize the time an operator needs to spend inside. “With cold storage,” he says, “it’s all about efficiency.”
About the AuthorJosh 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.
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