Material Handling Operations in a Cold Store

By Mr. Anil Lingayat, Vice President & Business Head, Godrej Material Handling & Division

The Cold Chain segment is expected to get a huge boost with an estimated fresh investment in food processing about $25 billion in the next 10 years (Source-MFPI). The total inflow of FDI in FPI sector increase to US$ 3 billion. Internationally trend for processed foods shifting from canned and preserved foods to chilled frozen foods. Increasing popularity of frozen products:

  • Maintains flavors, texture and nutrition
  • Convenience
  • Has no chemical preservatives
  • Off-season demand and reach
  • Availability of suitable retail infrastructure

Few Government initiatives which would further give traction to the Cold Chain segment in India include tax incentives, Simplification of excise rules, Electricity tariff at par with agriculture and so on.

Some basic info to understand Cold Chain Store applications:

  • The typical freezer application is -26 degrees celcius and very dry (55% relative humidity)
  • Components will not corrode and switches will not be blocked by frozen condensation under these conditions and the truck will work fine
  • Taking a truck out into ambient temperatures causes immediate condensation and the truck will be completely wet (including all switches and electronics) within 10 minutes if the temperature is 25-30 degrees outside
  • If the truck stays out for several hours (charging the battery or performing a repair), this allows for the truck to dry properly and it will function without problems when going back into the freezer warehouse
  • But, if the truck goes back into the warehouse still wet:
    • The huge amount of water freezes instantly at -26 degrees and is almost certain to cause blocked switches. All mechanical switches are heated in a freezer specced truck, but these switch heaters are not meant to prevent freezing of large amounts of water. They are there to prevent slight condensation and freezing of the switches.
    • In addition, there is the risk of chunks of ice forming inside major components, such as motors.
    • Finally, large amounts of water completely covering a truck inside and out on a regular basis seriously affects truck life and durabilty, no matter how high quality the truck is
    • It is also important to understand that slight condensation already starts at temperatures of around -3 degrees celsius, but this can be typically taken care of by the switch heaters
    • Freezer condition trucks are supplied with dedicated freezer oil, which is much thinner than regular oil. When under ambient conditions for more than about 30 minutes (depending on the ambient temperature and the heat generated by the use of the truck), this oil will become so thin that components will not be properly lubricated, the hydraulic system will not properly function and components are at risk of immediate or premature failure
    • The above facts go for any lift truck, not just Crown

So, it is recommended to:

  • Keep the truck in the freezer as much as possible
  • Use a 0-degree area for charging batteries and performing short maintenance and repair jobs. The closer this area is kept to 0 degrees, the better it is. 4 Degrees already causes considerable condensation.
  • Let the truck dry completely before taking it back in the freezer warehouse (so avoid mixed applications between freezer and ambient temperatures)
  • Never let a dedicated freezer truck work under ambient conditions for prolongued periods of time (exception possible with very expensive special mix oil called Renolin)
  • Never let a non-freezer truck work inside a freezer warehouse for prolongued periods of time

Material Handling Operations in a Cold-Store / Deep Freezer are for :-

1. Dock Operations and at staging area where goods are assorted.

2. Ante-Room (temp. range 0-90) where replenishment stock is kept

3 .Multi-layered storage on racks using ‘Narrow Aisle’ (-ve. chamber).

Recognizing the need for suitable material handling equipment working in such extreme conditions. Godrej Material Handling and Crown Equipment Corporation, USA have developed a range of material handling equipment designed for such application.

One of these products is the Godrej NEO series Electric Forklift Trucks which can be modified for freezer applications.

The following modifications are done on this forklift to make it suitable for usage inside cold storage.

  • Drive motor fitted with heater coil
  • Pump motor fitted with heater coil
  • Thermostat switch
  • Modified Panel Board with heater coils loom and SW60 contactor
  • Special hydraulic oil, gear box and brake oil used
  • Special painting provided on these trucks

 These trucks can be used in cold storages where the temperature can go upto -25 degree Celsius.

Similar modifications are carried out in Crown Reach Trucks for applications in Cold Storages. One of the unique accessories provided by Crown is a cold store cabin on its ESR 5200 series.

One of the most popular products used in Cold Storages in India is the Crown Double deep reach truck RD 5700 series. This equipment optimizes the available footprint of the cold storage leading to high cubic space utilization and better returns on investment.

It is important to understand that trucks not designed for Cold Store applications must not be utilized in Cold Stores as it will lead to frequent breakdowns and ultimately result in loss of productivity and efficiency.

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