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Equipment Guide for Frozen Food and Cold Storage Industries

Collection of frozen fruit

According to a national study on frozen foods in the United States, sales are projected to reach $23 billion in 2019. While national frozen food trends show things like organic and all-natural ingredients, a variety of flavor and style, healthier options and pricing all playing a vital role in this growth, it doesn’t end there. There’s an entire frozen food warehousing facility behind the scenes playing an integral part in storing these frozen foods with a focus on preserving the flavors and ingredients while maintaining labor efficiency to keep costs down.

We’ve created this frozen food storage equipment guide to give you insight into the absolute must-have equipment to streamline logistics, keep costs down and most importantly, keep your products preserved and protected before they go from your warehouse to the store shelves. While technology is important to the industry, you won’t find requests for any fancy drones or warehouses of the future here. We’re focusing on the essentials, the basics — the pieces of equipment your frozen food storage warehouse can’t afford to live without.

After reading this post, we want you to be able to reclaim and maximize your warehouse space, improve the ergonomics of your workforce, keep labor and overhead costs down and keep profit margins up.

Guidelines for Frozen Food & Cold Storage Warehousing

Before we get into these key pieces of equipment, it’s important to understand some of the guidelines for frozen food and cold storage warehousing. Anytime you’re dealing with food and a specific temperature, you should be following certain guidelines. For frozen food warehouses, several resources are available to help you as you maximize your storage space and the quality of the products that are stored there.

Interior of a frozen food warehouse and shelves of pallets.

The Frozen Food Handling and Merchandising Alliance is endorsed by many in the industry, so we’ve pulled from some of their guidelines below.

Capacity

Warehouses are always concerned with capacity, especially when it comes to frozen foods and cold storage. It’s particularly important because product capacity needs to match the storage facility space, but also because of the refrigeration needed to keep all the products at the appropriate temperature. The ratio of refrigeration to space needs to be precise. There also needs to be sufficient space between stacks and walls to make sure airflow is maximized. Stacks of products should utilize pallets for this purpose.

Temperature

The second guideline is regarding the actual temperature of your storage facility. In addition to ensuring the ratio of refrigeration to capacity is correct, it’s important to maintain the designated air temperature for the particular frozen foods being stored in your facility.

Close up view of thermometer with a blue background.

So you can monitor the temperature, each storage area should have two or more accurate and calibrated temperature measuring devices and at least one continuous recording device. Temperatures in each storage area should be recorded and reviewed by management every day, and those temperature logs should be saved for two years.

Refrigeration

In addition to making sure your refrigeration equipment is appropriate for the size of your warehouse and that the temperature is monitored closely, the refrigeration equipment should also include an alarm system that activates when the equipment fails — either due to a power outage or some other emergency. Having a contingency plan in place is recommended should a failure occur outside of business hours, as deterioration of the frozen food would be at risk.

Material Handling

As much as possible, material handling and packaging operations — like casing and palletizing — should be done in the cold storage area to reduce frozen food exposure to any source of heat or humidity that would ultimately affect the quality of the product. When items need to be moved either from storage to shipment or vice versa, frozen food should be moved quickly through any loading areas that are not refrigerated.

Shipments

When a new shipment of frozen products arrives at the warehousing facility, its temperature should be checked. If any frozen foods have a temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit or higher — or the product is damaged in any way — workers should notify a manager to ensure special handling based upon the condition of the product. Before shipments are accepted for storage, they should be code marked for organization and identification purposes.

tractor trailer leaving a refrigerated warehouse.

To achieve many of these guidelines, you'll require the right equipment. The three must-have pieces of equipment that will get the job done for you in your frozen food warehouse are pallet retrievers, freezer spacers/plastic pallets and stretch wrappers.

Pallet Retrievers (Aka Pallet Changers)

Since pallets are an integral part of the frozen food and cold storage warehouse, it’s no surprise that pallet retrievers are on our list as one of the pieces of equipment you just can’t do without. These big pieces of equipment help you remove freezer spacers, combine loads and change out pallets safely and efficiently.

Model designs differ, but many of them use a combination of components that rotate stacks of products and pallets to make storage adjustments fast and easy. They can adjust based on the size of the stack you want to move. Then, they slide below the stack and above it and tilt it back until you can easily reach the pallets, freezer spacers and products to make adjustments in your storage as needed.

The alternatives to a pallet retriever are more manual labor or using forklifts for a means they aren’t designed for. Both of these methods take a significantly longer amount of time and produce and unsafe environment. Upgrading from a manual labor process will help improve your bottom line, as the efficiency of a pallet retriever is something unmatched by human hands.

You’ll notice a similar improvement by upgrading from navigating these tasks with a forklift. While there are almost always uses for forklifts in a warehouse, this is one job that’s better suited for a pallet retriever. And with more than 20,000 workers injured by forklifts every year, a pallet retriever is likely to be safer for your employees too.

Yellow forklift in a warehouse.

Cherry’s Industrial Equipment offers a few different models of pallet retrievers for frozen food warehousing. All of them were designed to handle the heavy workloads and increased demands in cold storage facilities. You’ll find each of them features simple controls, reliable components and easy operation to help you maximize your frozen food logistics. Here is a list of our pallet retrievers and what they can help your business achieve:

  • PSR model pallet: Remove freezer spacers, change out pallets and combine loads in seconds with our PSR model pallet. Slide a platform above the stack of products you want to access and then tips them back onto their side for you to modify.
  • VBED model: Free up valuable dock space — pull slats, freezer spacers and divider sheets in seconds with our V-bed retriever model. This design is ideal for around the clock use and accessing slats and spacers, as it tips back into a "deep V."
  • SR2 model: Insert and remove freezer spacers, tip whole pallets and separate layers in a matter of minutes with our SR2 model. This model is a perfect fit for frozen food storage, as it allows you to insert and remove spacers at different points within the stacks of products.
  • Inline systems: Automate your retrieval process, free up space and reduce forklift movement with one of our inline systems. These systems add a Chain Driven Live Roller (CDLR) conveyor — the conveyor feeds the stack of products into the pallet retriever, which then lays the load on its side for removal of spacers and/or pallet replacement.
An inline warehouse retreival system with boxes on pallet and system.

Browse our inventory of spacer and pallet retrievers now to find the perfect solution to your frozen food warehousing needs!

Freezer Spacers/Plastic Pallets

Freezer spacers play an important role in the frozen food and cold storage industry. These spacers are used to minimize product freeze time, saving on utility costs.  With these spacers, cold air can move between layers of products resulting in consistent freezing for the entire pallet load.  Once the products have reached a certain temperature, you can remove the spacers between stacks of products.

Older pallets are made of wood, not plastic. While they serve the same purpose, the plastic freezer spacers are often preferred, especially for frozen food storage. Wood is susceptible to mold, rot and insects, and over time, it breaks down and wears out because it’s biodegradable. All of these are concerns, especially in the frozen food industry, as food contamination can ruin products and cause profit loss.

Blue plastic warehouse spacer for pallet system.

Many plastic spacers, on the other hand, are made with FDA-compliant, heavy-duty plastic that is cleanable, stackable, reusable and recyclable. Overall, they are simpler to maintain and more lightweight, making them easier to move and store.

Freezer spacers are also available in FDA-compliant plastic, which is ideal for any food storage. They are hygienic, consistent in weight and dimension, chemical-resistant, recyclable and reusable. Their specific configurations, capacities, and airflow vary giving you the ability to choose the type that works best for your warehouse organization.

Here are the freezer spacers that are available from Cherry’s Industrial Equipment, along with a description of each one's design:

  • Egg Crate Design: This nestable HDPE plastic spacer is designed to provide both horizontal and vertical airflow.  You can choose from the PEFS-MD Medium Duty freezer spacer or the PEFS-HD Heavy Duty freezer spacer.  The max weight the medium-duty spacer can handle is 1,800 lbs. while the heavy-duty spacer can handle 3,600 lbs. The height of both spacers is 1.25”.
  • Maxi-Flow Design: This particular nestable HDPE plastic spacer has a more distinct design then the egg crate spacers. Its main distinction is found in its height - 2.25”.  Along with its unique airflow design, this height is what enables the Maxi freezer spacer to provide more airflow than the standard egg crate spacers resulting in faster freeze times.
  • Heavy Duty Rigid Design: This structural foam molded HDPE Rigid Plastic Spacer has a higher density than the egg crate and maxi spacers yielding a more robust construction.  The spacer comes with a lattice design which permits great air flow while at the same time not leaving impressions in the product.  It is used for both freezing and/or tempering foods such as red meat, poultry, and fish.

Shop now to get any freezer spacer you need for your frozen food storage warehouses.

Stretch Wrappers

Stretch wrappers are pieces of equipment that provide an efficient way to unitize and secure pallet loads with plastic film. In the frozen food industry, stretch wrap also influences the rate at which food thaws and freezes, so choosing the best wrap for your industry and the best tool to help you wrap is especially important.

While the exact method to applying plastic wrap differs depending on the type of stretch wrapper you have, these pieces of equipment are built to help you wrap pallet loads quickly and with additional tension on the plastic wrap, which protects your food products from both damage and theft.

Stretch wrappers vary greatly in size, beginning with portable units that come ready to navigate large frozen food warehouses all the way up to large, conveyorized models that take up over 250 square feet. The specific type you need depends on a few difference specifications — how much space you have, your maximum load size and your production speed. A variety of options are available, giving you the opportunity to streamline your frozen food logistics.

Regardless of what specifics you’re searching for, you should know there are several benefits to using any particular type of stretch wrapper. For example, if you’re considering a stretch wrapper as an alternative to hand wrapping, you’re sure to notice a difference in your bottom line. Stretch wrappers save time on manual labor and also use at least 30 percent less film, giving you savings on your supplies.

A large warehouse stretch wrapping system.

If you’re considering an upgrade from an older stretch wrapper model, you’ll be able to capitalize on some of the newer technologies and features that are available, like auto start, auto cut and 200 percent pre-stretch.

Cherry’s Industrial Equipment gives you the opportunity to take advantage of these benefits through turntable, overhead and robotic stretch wrappers from trusted brands like Lantech, Southworth and Vestil. Regardless of which equipment you choose, you’ll get 200 percent pre-stretch to stabilize and protect your loads and at least a 30 percent reduction in the amount of film you use. Here are a few more details about each of the different types of stretch wrappers from Cherry’s Industrial Equipment:

  • Turntable stretch wrappers: If you’re looking for an alternative to hand wrapping that is inexpensive, this model might be right for you. The turntable stretch wrappers rotate the load on a turntable while rollers pre-tension the film, and a mast moves up and down. You can also add a ramp entry, extended height mast and auto cut off.
  • Overhead stretch wrapperIf you need floor level loading without a ramp, our overhead stretch wrappers are up for the job. Their unique design features a mast that revolves around the load while the overhead stretch wrapper remains stationary. Cherry’s Industrial Equipment features in-line models too.
  • Robotic/automatic stretch wrappers: Position one of our robotic/automatic stretch wrappers near the pallet you want to wrap, tie the film off, walk away and this portable, automatic unit will take care of the rest.

If you're ready to embrace frozen food technology, check out our selection of stretch wrappers right away.

The Value of Upgrading Your Frozen Food & Cold Storage Handling Equipment

Upgrading your frozen food and cold storage handling equipment can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Regardless of which piece of equipment you choose to upgrade, you’re sure to notice at least one of the benefits below.

Return on Investment

You may end up spending more up front for a new piece of equipment, but once you have it, it’s going to save you money in several different ways. The first is labor costs — a job that used to take a few people an extended period is now quickly done by an operator and a new piece of equipment.

The second big way upgrading equipment can save you money is in time. A machine works faster than manpower, and a newer one is likely to have a greater capacity and speed than an old one. Over time, this translates to more output and in turn, higher profits.

Efficiency

While all equipment upgrades are likely to have a positive impact on efficiency, custom-designed material handling equipment takes that efficiency to a new level. Custom equipment is designed specifically for your process, precision-made to address every job you have for it with a flawless performance. When your process runs that much smoother, you get closer to achieving peak efficiency.

Worker Safety

Believe it or not, more than 80 percent of reported musculoskeletal disorder cases occurred in the freight and stock moving industries in 2015. Newer equipment comes with the latest safety features, and custom-designed equipment gives you the opportunity to dictate what safety features are most important for your employees. Ergonomic features are possible to get on material handling equipment, which dramatically reduces strain and fatigue, benefitting your workforce.

Female medical professional in blue scrubs and a white doctor's coat holding a clip board.

Equipment Life

Older equipment is more likely to break down. Upgrading to newer equipment or choosing custom-designed gives you the opportunity to get a tool that is built to take on what you need it to, but also to ensure that the equipment you have was made for the capacity of job you’re using it for. Sometimes our uses evolve, but equipment stays the same. In the end, that can result in shorter equipment life and an unsafe environment for employees.

Trust Cherry's Industrial With Your Frozen Food and Cold Storage Equipment Needs

At Cherry’s Industrial Equipment, we understand that not all frozen food warehouses are the same. There are countless cookie-cutter equipment solutions out there, but we focus on creating a custom solution that works for you and your warehouse process. If you see a piece of our equipment that could work with your logistics but could be a perfect fit with a few customizations, we do our best to accommodate. After all, why settle for warehouse equipment that falls short of solving 100 percent of the problem?

Man standing on pallets working with an inline system to ensure pallet is spaced correctly.

Our equipment upholds the highest standard of quality and safety, and it’s manufactured and assembled in the USA. We don’t just create solutions for big companies either. We know what it’s like to be a smaller company, so we make an effort to develop affordable solutions for their frozen food warehouses too. After all, the size of the company doesn’t mean challenges are any different — they're just on another scale.

Regardless of whether you’re a big company or a small one, if you’re searching for a solution for your frozen food storage warehouse, you can browse a complete listing of our pallet retrievers, plastic pallets, freezer spacers and stretch wrappers on our website.

Whether you know what you need or are still trying to figure out what would work best with your storage process, we can help you. Give us a call at 1-800-350-0011 to discuss finding the best equipment for your business. One of our product experts will be able to make tailored recommendations based on your current process, equipment and needs. You can also contact us through our online form to inquire about a particular product.