Cold storage inventory best practices

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Food producers and other manufacturers may keep items in cold storage if their products carry an expiration date. Perishable inventory presents certain challenges, and temperature-controlled warehouses are hard to manage. Here are four best strategies for overseeing product refrigeration:

1. Diverse layouts need full visibility
Most cold storage is used by frozen food manufacturers but other companies need temperature-controlled climates as well. Chemical producers, pharmaceutical suppliers and some high-tech electronics products utilize refrigerated environments.

Companies who store cold items may also need space for goods that don't require special atmospheres. Inbound Logistics featured the story of a manufacturer that allocated 110,000 square feet of warehouse space for frozen products and 70,000 square feet for dry goods. It used three temperature controlled blast cells, 22 truck bays, a 40,000 square foot dock and 10-door refrigerated rail sliding run by 36 employees.

To keep track of the facility, utilities and workers the company employed a software system that dictated warehouse locations and tracked products as they moved through the building. The software monitors temperature control, employee performance and the age of each item in storage.

2. Labels for high density shelving
Keeping an area cold is expensive. Modern Material Handling advised companies to use dense storage to maximize freezer space and reduce heat loss.

Products packed together densely require less energy for cooling. This type of storage has its drawbacks, however. It is harder to pull materials from dense pallets and items in need of quick turnaround must be reachable.

Clear labels and data reporting tools aid dense storage strategies. Barcode labels facing out are easy to scan and provide workers with the item's age and customer demand. Merchandise brought into the warehouse is scanned and incorporated into the warehouse information system so a proper location for storage can be selected.

3. Using specialized tools
When choosing tools to use in cold storage, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Workers need devices with screens that won't easily fog up, buttons that work with thick gloves and batteries that won't degrade too quickly in harsh environments.

All forklifts and other heavy equipment must be certified for use in cold atmospheres. Data tools should be flexible to capture information from diverse items in unique locations. Microsoft Dynamics NAV inventory scanning allows for software integration on the user's preferred handheld device. Companies should partner with a software provider that has a history of working with specialized inventories.

4. Traceability
Food is kept cold so it won't spoil. Other materials require a cool environment so they won't degrade. If materials are shipped out that don't meet consumer standards or face a recall, cold storage facilities need traceability to find where the problem occurred.

Food Processing suggested items should be tracked by storage lot location, supplier and expiration dates. When tainted consumables or other products make their way to customers, angry consumers and government regulators will demand to see this information to assign fault and to ensure that other products are not distributed.

Constant data reporting creates better information. Cold storage items are visible using real-time information to prevent bad products from shipping. In the event of a mistake, constant data capture makes sure every possible factor is accounted for.

Warehouse mangers can download the "Keeping the Physical World and the Virtual World in Sync" whitepaper to see some more tools designed for special inventory needs.