Preferred Freezer Services, Perth Amboy, N.J., takes great pride in its modern, full-service, temperature-controlled warehouses. From modest beginnings with only 1.3 million cubic feet and 25 full-time employees, today, it is said to be one of the largest public refrigerated warehousing companies in the world.

More than 1,600 employees and 270 million square feet of warehouse space allow the company to offer premier freezer facilities that generate almost over $300 million in sales.

Preferred Freezer strives to be the best in the industry, which means staying abreast of the issues most relevant to the operation—maintaining quality product for customers, speed and accuracy in picking (retrieving products from the warehouse), safety and cleanliness and a constant drive to improve the bottom line. Its efforts to continue to be the best led them to LEDs.

Maintaining quality product for customers
Each of Preferred Freezer’s facilities features state-of-the-art refrigeration to perfectly preserve customers’ products.

“It’s imperative that we keep our freezer as cold as possible and maintain that temperature because we store food,” says Brian Baum, lead maintenance technician for Preferred Freezer. “A metal halide light or high-pressure sodium light gives off immense heat, so you have 300 of these lights in the freezer, you can see how many BTUs they’re producing, and it affects our cooling capacity. Our refrigeration systems have to run harder.”

So why the need for all those lights?

Part of the company’s responsibility is to receive and transport goods, hand-stack products on a pallet, count and lot them, and put them into cold storage until the customer wants them. That’s when the process is reversed.

In a semi-automated retrieval process like this, it’s crucial for workers to have enough light to quickly and correctly identify bar codes. Pallets are handled only once to reduce damage and improve operational efficiency.

Existing HID and fluorescents lost light levels quickly, which made it harder to see the barcodes and required constantly changing out old lamps to bring light levels bright enough.

Safety and cleanliness
Safety and cleanliness is of utmost importance to Preferred Freezer. Yet, there were times the dock was so dark that the employees felt more susceptible to injury there. The existing lights inside the warehouse also made it difficult to see build up on floors, making daily cleaning longer and more labor intensive.

Like any business, Preferred Freezer is always looking for ways to run their operations smarter with fewer dollars. Not only did Preferred Freezer’s old lights increase its cooling costs and energy bills, but they also needed to be changed often to keep the light levels high. All this re-lamping required bringing in a scissor lift every months, in addition to cease picking in those areas and changing out the HID and high-pressure sodium lamps.

The solution
Preferred Freezer began exploring a change to LED and its benefits, including enhanced light and energy savings as well as the safety and cleanliness. Research revealed that, in addition to lower energy, air conditioning and maintenance costs, upgrading to LED also made Preferred Freezer eligible for some government incentives.

That’s why Preferred Freezer turned to Liberty Lighting Group, Chatham, N.J., for assistance. The firm had partnered with Preferred Freezer for years, and identified Acuity Brands, Conyers, Ga., as an ideal manufacturer for its LED lighting needs. Acuity Brands is a leading provider of LED lighting, lighting controls and related products and services.

Preferred Freezer worked with Acuity’s engineers to come up with the perfect LED solution for each area targeted for the upgrade, from the cold storage warehouse to back offices to the loading dock and outdoor lighting. Then, one by one, they upgraded each location to LED. It was only a short time before the results were clear.

“One of the biggest benefits from a quality standpoint is the clarity that you have, both on our loading dock and in our freezer,” says Dan Albretsen, general manager for Preferred Freezer. “When you walk into the freezers that have been converted, it’s white, crisp—you can see the numbers on those cases much more clearly. And, that quality benefit really helps in our business.”

Acuity Brands installed the new LED lighting about a year ago.

“Once we changed to LED, it was literally night and day—exceeded all my expectations,” says Baum.

“We made the decision that LED is the right thing to do for our business. We prioritized all of the locations, figured out where the best savings were from a dollars-per-kilowatt-hour perspective and which states offered the best incentives. Over that 2-year span, we knocked them off one at a time, and now we’re almost fully LED-illuminated,” adds Beattie. “Just by eliminating those [HID] lights, you’re saving money on electricity, our refrigeration costs, everything’s affected.”

“I like Acuity Brands. We order a lot of lights at once,” adds Baum. “When we placed an order, all the lights arrived, all the hangers arrived, everything came when it was promised and everything was there that we needed.”

Better lighting meant not only optimized picking and lower electricity bills, but also enhanced safety – and something Beattie feels passionate about—the positive personal energy that comes from a clean, safe environment that he and his employees can be proud of.

“There’s a huge difference with the lighting, especially when it comes to safety,” adds Freddie Vazquez, operations manager for Preferred Freezer. “And, it makes it look a lot better. When customers stop by, we take pride in showing the building.”

As the company’s growth continues, Preferred Freezer is certain to build on the foundation it has established—superior facilities with leading-edge technologies and outstanding people with the talent and drive to be the best.