Select the right warehouse equipment, which would meet the operating metrics and business objectives of any food store or cold store

Mr. S. Gnanasekaran By Dy. General Manager- Sales & Marketing, Godrej Storage Solutions

In past years, the warehouse manager has been the “whipping boy” for manufacturing and marketing departments in a company. Such comparable patterns are recently evident for cold store managers on the perspectives of retailers, suppliers and various food security agencies. The major reason for such outlook is that the warehouse is perceived as a static environment. Nevertheless, the transformation in the food segment in recent days demonstrate great step in setting and meeting the warehouse metrics and objectives, like other warehouses.

In this article, we would mention broad approach to select the right warehouse equipment, which would meet the operating metrics and business objectives of any food store or cold store. The first step is to design the cold store to serve today’s purposes as well as “future ready”. Often, the future ready is overlooked or overstressed. To envision the balanced approach, scalable & flexible solution is important. This would envisage the equitable future without compromising today’s demands.

The approach is explained here in a simple way with the selection criteria and its attributes:

The first principle is to always find the best way to group the food items. In other sense, plan to unitise the SKUs in as large unit load as practically possible. This would set the objective unambiguous, ie. go for palletisation or in multiple pieces. The more discrete the SKUs are, the more will be the direct manual interaction & damages. Hence, it is important to decide the right GROUPING methodology to handle SKUs in a cold store.

The second principle is to decide the optimal SYSTEM FLOW. The warehouse in-charge is no more a store keeper by accounting receipt & issues. The role is wider than conventional, where he plays the role of an inspector, supervisor and safety officer to assure warehouse hygiene, food quality and no food losses. The system flow refers the synchronised way of managing the data and physical flow. The guiding system can be a simple, cloud based economical location management and identification software, with right set of rules and alerts for inspection, put away, picking. This would help the warehouse in-charge to drive for key metrics including FIFO , FEFO , occupancy rate, inbound & outbound rate, inventory audit , data logging etc., in a very economical way, unlike current manual register or with high end WMS.

The third principle is SAFETY. This includes design safety and operational safety. The design safety is very important as the context is non-ambient. The performance of all the constituents of the infrastructure including the racking structure & handling equipment are in line with the stipulated safety norms and standards. It is better to demand vendors or consultants to certify the design for all the intended conditions. The operational safety is the responsibility of the warehouse in-charge where the training to operators and methodology for handling the SKUs are followed strictly in a timely manner. An initial and a periodic training from the equipment suppliers would ensure the operators more skilled.

Though the points for all storage and handling elements are on the path of taking the value chain upwards on efficiency & effectiveness, the reality is still to get the right ROI without compromising the service levels. This is balanced approach, means, the investment on capital & operation matters, ie. capex & opex. It is important that these two are looked together to reach a balanced view on today & future. There are multiple range of solutions in palletised applications, which would help to travel the path of COST EFFECTIVE equipment combination for various store sizes and its deliverables.

OPERATING EFFICIENCY is to maximise the use of space, equipment, labour. This is an internal lead indicator for an efficient warehouse. This can be achieved with right combination of racking and handling equipment, operated by well informed warehouse manager with a set of trained operators. This operating efficiency includes addressing energy leakage in an optimal number of in/out movements, quick accessibility to the SKU and operators’ ergonomics.

No doubt the cold stores hold the key for the life of the food. The freshness and flavour aspects of the food are maintained through a well-equipped & well-spread refrigeration. The warehouse storage & handling system should ensure that they complement the refrigeration flow within the warehouse completely. LIVELINESS to all the stock is achieved when each SKU is enabled to experience the refrigeration to maintain freshness. This is easily possible palletised application as the ingress and egress points of racking on all sides ensure this.

Maximize the cube of the warehouse space for storage and minimise the foot print, as it is more expensive to cool the air than heat it. It automatically demands a storage system, which offers high DENSITY. High density of storage should also ensure accessibility to intended SKUs quickly. The rated capacity of a warehouse would vary based on the aisle space, staging space & pallet ingress /egress limits. However operating capacity depends on the honeycombing effect, which is purely drive by the warehouse operation.

In nut shell, there are enough opportunities for the cold stores to embark upon palletised solutions to make sure the solutions are future ready without compromising today’s demands of the market. In other way, it is important that the human operating conditions need an improvement to operate a hygiene warehouse efficiently, safely and profitably. After all, we can not change human conditions…But we can change the conditions where humans work.

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