Automation is the key to maintain & sustain – Cold Chain Operations.

By Author- Mr. Hemant Meshram

Several states experience Hail storm  – This is sad but its pity that when 100% loss occurs then everyone pays attention and takes steps to arrest the same. But what about the 30 to 40% produce being lost per year India and just doing rough calculation for 2 – 3 years – it is equal to 100% loss.

It has been reported by various agencies that India loses 30 to 40% of due to post harvest losses that runs into Millions of tonnes of food wastage and that goes to Billion of Rupees lost each year.

One important thing to note – it is not only wastage of food produce but all our valuable resources goes waste viz. Labour, Fertilizers, Water….just everything that will make food reach us. One way to arrest this post-harvest lost is of course having Cold storage facilities and maintaining the quality of valuable food produced.

Thus, Cold Storage plays a very instrumental role in saving our valuable resources and above all – protecting most important needs of Human Beings – Food.

Now, everyone understands above role and even Indian government has buckled up to have new cold storage facilities and improve current ones.

Some years back, according to government estimates, India had 5,400 cold storage facilities, with a combined capacity of 23.66 million metric tons that can store less than 11% of what was produced. Now the number of cold storage facilities are increased but then also we running shortfall. 

Generally, a cold storage consists of a number of refrigerated chambers which are able to chill, freeze and store any perishable product.

Before planning a cold store it is important to define operational and technical specifications.

These are strictly dependent on products, stores, storage conditions, environment, energy and personnel.

To have good cold store : site needs to easily accessible by rail and / or road, good roads, good supply of electricity & water, drainage facilities, local availability of labour (technical personnel, skilled labour for maintenance and general labourers) should be in place.

In whole this scenario and everything being listed out, the most important point is being missed out – “Cold Chain Operation” and in Cold Chain Operation – one most important component is Personnel.

The general features of a cold store operational include – receive products, chill product and then chilled and / or freeze storage, dispatch product.

In this simple daily operation, involves – lot of work – maintain stocks, daily movements, check refrigeration system & handling equipment and access facilities, attend daily new challenges etc…

Cold storage is often located in remote places and to get good experienced technical guy is always difficult and over the period of time – the cold storage is left to unskilled non-technical, experienced guy.

When any company builds up a cold storage for initial years it is being maintained in a good state and then as it ages – deviation starts occurring and finally the standardized operation is deviated. Once deviation starts in cold storage operation – it worsens a further and finally leads to disaster.

Third party Audit of not only cold storage but also the personnel involved. Interviewing them to understand – if all the operations are being clearly understood and being followed – with respect to present times and situation.

The human body is developed to work at normal room temperature and not to work in sub-zero temperatures, yet the majority of frozen food and cold storage operations conduct warehousing activities completely manually with high personnel turnover in these types of facilities due to the chilly temperatures.

These manual operations pose operational and logistical challenges such as increased product, facility and equipment  damage, labour turnover, and errors in order fulfilment. These types of challenges can easily be eliminated with an Automated System.

More and more automatic system tracking and maintaining details of each and every event occur. For eg. – Opening door, loading unloading, air flow, temperature at different place / zones, no. of produce entering the storage facility, deviation occurred, system failure.

All the data for automatic system needs to be maintained by cold storage provider and should be accessible by internal responsible and also to the company whose produce is being stored.

Automation is necessary – as it is being observed – the workers fill in data which is liked by supervisor and supervisor reports the same data that his boss wants to see. Yes, all the good to best data are being reported and over the period of time – deviation, errors in system pile up and one day boom – a disaster. Automation and data management keeps a check on everything.

Automated systems & data management – allows process times improvement and standardized control strategies for the product and cold storage operation.  It prevents food contamination, reduce waste, energy saving, thorough output, savings in time and increases shelf-life, ensuring greater consumer protection.

Automation is the key to maintain & sustain – Cold Chain Operations.

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