Brrrr. It's no secret that a cold refrigerated and frozen food warehouse environment presents certain equipment challenges to facility managers and employees.
One company that knows the subject well is United States Cold Storage, Inc. (USCS), a 110-year-old refrigerated warehouse operator. This Voorhees, N.J.-based company owns a national network of cold storage warehouses with more than 150 million cubic feet of combined space. USCS provides warehousing and distribution services for a complete range of perishable food products, pharmaceuticals and other items.
And because USCS is so good at its business ... it keeps growing. To better serve an estimated 1,200 customers nationwide, company officials constantly review sites for new locations. They consider major routes, interstate highways, rail service and proximity to customers. That recently led USCS to open two new sites in Wilmington, Ill., and Lebanon, Ind.
USCS also reviews its options inside each facility, including best practices and equipment for cold storage material handling. In both the Wilmington and Lebanon facilities, USCS relies on Raymond® lift trucks, which not only stand up to the cold environments but also move up to 100 million pounds of product per month at these two locations.
Lift trucks are "the lifeblood"
Jim Duffy, USCS' regional chief engineer, says lift trucks are the lifeblood of the distribution process. He worked with Arbor Material Handling, Inc., a Raymond sales and service center, to select the lift trucks for U.S. Cold Storage’s new facilities. The combined lift truck fleets total 71 trucks - including Raymond Reach-Fork® trucks, sit-down and stand-up counterbalanced lift trucks, orderpickers, and pallet trucks - all utilized for various applications within the warehouses.
Lift trucks used in cold storage environments must be equipped to operate in severe temperatures, so all USCS narrow aisle lift trucks feature a cold storage conditioning package, which protects the lift trucks’ control systems.
In addition, USCS' Reach-Fork lift trucks are equipped with the Raymond ThermaKit™ system to keep operators more comfortable when maneuvering in frigid temperatures -- and even in blast-freezing operations, where the mercury can dip to 40 below zero. The ThermaKit system includes heated control handles and heated floor cushions on the lift trucks to help keep operators’ hands and feet warm. Both heaters are thermostatically controlled to shut off when the trucks move into non-freezer, ambient environments.
“Anything we can do to help the operators feel more comfortable in this environment is a bonus,” Duffy says. “We know the operators appreciate the heated handles and floor cushions, and the added comfort may make them a little more productive as well.”
Technology aids productivity
U.S. Cold Storage takes advantage of narrow aisles and tall racks to maximize its facilities' storage capabilities. Storage heights in the U.S. Cold Storage warehouses can reach up to 40 feet, which can challenge an operator putting a pallet away on the back shelf of a double-deep rack.
In this case, Raymond's Vantage Point® high-level color imaging system -- installed on the company’s Reach-Fork trucks -- helps those operators working in the tall racks. The imaging system includes a camera mounted on the forks of the lift truck and a screen mounted in the operator compartment. This system provides additional visual assistance at greater heights, increasing operator accuracy and efficiency when handling pallets.
Duffy says he also appreciates that the lift trucks interface with other warehouse technology systems.
“Lift truck technology has advanced, and the trucks now include provisions for computerized systems and additional connections for equipment such as computers and scanners,” Duffy says. “Raymond has demonstrated the versatility to provide these provisions to integrate our warehouse management systems with the lift trucks. This allows us to better manage the facility and inventory, track pallet and case moves, and manage overall productivity.”
Service is key
USCS says its Lebanon and Wilmington operations run as many as 16 to 18 hours per day, seven days per week. Reliable, comprehensive service from authorized Raymond Sales and Service centers keeps the lift truck fleets maintained, enabling U.S. Cold Storage employees to focus on material handling -- instead of lift truck maintenance.
Associated Material Handling Inc. and Allied Handling Equipment Co. service U.S. Cold Storage facilities in Lebanon and Wilmington, respectively, through a comprehensive service agreement. Accordingly, service technicians from Associated and Allied are regularly on-site at U.S. Cold Storage to perform scheduled maintenance and address other maintenance requests.
“We have some redundancy of lift trucks built into our fleet because if the lift trucks are down, we are down. We are unable to receive product, move it from docks to storage and then pick product from storage for shipping,” Duffy says. “Our experience has been that Raymond lift trucks are very reliable, and reliability and performance are key to our lift truck purchase decisions. These trucks and their accessories are designed to perform in our harsh environments, and that makes all the difference in the world to me and our operations.”
Jim Douglas is a quality control and field support technician at The Raymond Corporation, Greene, N.Y.
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