Cold Storage Trends the Next 5 Years

Posted by , GSP Marketing on February 6, 2023
GSP Marketing

The global cold storage market is poised for phenomenal growth over the next five years as the industry takes advantage of digital transformation and emerging technologies.

“The global cold storage market is forecast to grow by $118.3 billion during 2022-2027, accelerating at a CAGR of 13.47 percent during the forecast period,” said a report by Infiniti Research Limited released in January 2023.

The report cited cold storage trends driving growth over the next five years including:

  • The use of cell-based forklifts in refrigerated warehousing to increase productivity and save space.

  • Increasing use of automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) that can retrieve items or store them in specific locations.

  • Using IoT (Internet of Things) and real-time monitoring systems to enable better temperature control, as well as predictive maintenance of equipment.

Fuel Cell-Based Forklifts Can Drive Cold Storage Growth

The Infiniti Research study identified the use of fuel cell-based forklifts in cold storage that can drive industry growth over the next five years with increased productivity and space saved.

“As electric forklifts continue to grow in popularity, manufacturers are making significant efforts to find ways to improve run-time and performance to match – or even exceed – their internal combustion (IC) engine counterparts,” says Toyota Forklifts which manufactures a hydrogen fuel cell-based forklift. “Environmental concerns and the availability of natural resources – such as coal, oil, and natural gas – are also driving the need to find a sustainable, long-term renewable energy solution.”

The Toyota Forklift is a marriage of hydrogen and fuel cells:

  • Hydrogen is a chemical element that can be found in natural resources like plants and water. While there is a finite amount of naturally occurring hydrogen in the atmosphere, the element can be produced in alternative ways, including steam reforming, electrolysis, and gasification.

  • A fuel cell is a cell that produces an electric current as a direct result of a chemical reaction. The chemical reaction produces electricity that is used to power a load which, in this case, is a forklift.

“Hydrogen-powered vehicles are similar to their IC engine counterparts in that they can be refilled quickly and easily at a fueling station. They also require less maintenance because they don’t need the watering, equalizing, charging, or cleaning that is required with lead-acid batteries,” says Toyota.

HandyTube explains how fuel cell-based forklifts can increase productivity and save space:

  • Productivity: A standard battery must be replaced once its charge runs out, typically twice per eight-hour shift. So, each lift truck usually has a dedicated backup battery at a charging station located within the warehouse. Depending on travel time to and from the charging station, battery replacement could create 30 minutes of downtime per operator. By contrast, fuel-cell powered forklifts only need to be refueled once per eight-hour shift and can be refueled in less than five minutes.
  • Space Saver: Warehouses operating hundreds of lift trucks must have massive charging stations, which rob the company of valuable floor space. Switching to hydrogen eliminates the need for battery charging stations, freeing up space for revenue-generating activities and allowing this space to be used more productively.

A third advantage of fuel cell-based batteries is that traditional batteries have serious issues with power degradation over time and disposing of them poses environmental and storage challenges until the batteries can be recycled or discarded.

AS/RS Can Operate in Environments Not Ideal for Humans

Cold storage facilities are typically environments not ideally suited to humans so automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) can play a productive role in saving labor costs and increasing productivity.

“Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are computer- and robot-aided systems that can retrieve items or store them in specific locations. The system is usually comprised of predefined locations where machines can follow established routes to get items,” says 6 River Systems. “As long as everything is stored in its proper location, these systems help to speed up manufacturing and shipping tasks. Typically, automated storage and retrieval systems are used when high volume loads must be moved rapidly and accurately.”

The two primary types of AS/RS, according to 6 River Systems, include:

  • Unit-load systems: Unit-load AS/RS handles the big jobs that may require moving objects or pallets that weigh a few thousand pounds. A typical unit-load AS/RS uses moveable-aisle cranes or fixed-aisle cranes.

  • Mini-load systems: Mini-load AS/RS, such as case-handling or tote-stacking systems, are smaller cranes or robots that handle lightweight loads such as trays or cartons. Mini-load AS/RS typically use cranes or shuttles.

There are also vertical lift modules (VLM) and carousel-based systems, which help retrieve items with the help of inserter extractors.

AS/RS advantages include:

  • Reduced labor costs.

  • Improved accuracy, efficiency, and productivity.

  • Reduced safety risks for employees as they lift and move fewer heavy and/or bulky items.

“AS/RS can work in environments that aren’t ideal for human workers, such as freezer storage areas,” concludes 6 River Systems. “They can function at heights that are difficult for human workers to navigate, as well, allowing warehouse operators to maximize floor space by making better use of vertical space.”

Integrating IoT in Cold Storage to Monitor, Control, and Optimize

The development of smart and autonomous cold storage systems with the integration of IoT technology can provide real-time monitoring as well as providing control and optimization of temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions.

“IoT technology is impacting almost every industry globally including the cold storage sector,” says Adapt Ideations. “IoT can be defined as the interconnectivity and exchange of data between an ‘object’ and the cloud.

IoT-enhanced devices can collect data vital to the global cold chain supply where temperature-sensitive products can be damaged if not stored in the correct conditions.

“The digitalization and automation of supply chain processes can reduce the need for manual processes and ensure that issues that occur can be identified as soon as possible,” says Adapt Ideations.

Softweb Solutions says that the benefits of implementing IoT solutions in cold storage facilities include:

  • Real-time monitoring: IoT solutions for cold storage facilities help to monitor necessary parameters and adjust them when deviation occurs from preset values. This can prevent food decay and helps maintain regulatory compliance. Solutions can also send alerts via SMS text and email whenever an anomaly is detected.

  • Employee and asset safety: Smart IoT sensors can send alerts whenever they detect a system failure. This can address risky scenarios in real time and enables cold storage operators to take immediate action to avoid disasters. IoT-enabled systems can maintain detailed records of every activity to improve the security of cold storage facilities.

  • Well-organized stock management: Cold storage management systems can keep operators informed about the empty spaces in their cold storage facility for optimal usage. Also, IoT sensors can collect data and record the movement of assets and other items to send alerts in case they detect any abnormal movement suspecting a theft. Alerts can be triggered about the expiration of a product to ensure it is moved out for selling in time.

  • Minimizes human involvement: IoT-enabled monitoring solutions automate several processes in cold storage facilities and help minimize the staff required to stock and dispatch goods.

Of course, the key is keeping the cold in cold storage.

“A cold storage temperature monitoring solution includes thermostats and sensors that constantly measure the temperature of a closed system, capture data and send it to a centralized platform over a network. This helps the logistics manager to monitor the shipment remotely and ensure the maintenance of optimum temperature,” concludes Softweb Solutions.

Six More Cold Storage Trends to Keep an Eye On

Fuel cell-based forklifts, AS/RS, and IoT technology are just three of the cold storage trends to keep an eye on.

Here are six more trends to watch in the next five years:

  • Adoption of blockchain technology to improve transparency and traceability in the cold supply chain.

  • Growing demand for eco-friendly and sustainable cold storage solutions, including the use of renewable energy sources and the reduction of food waste.

  • Emphasis on food safety and compliance with regulatory requirements, including the implementation of strict hygiene protocols and advanced microbial control measures.

  • Adoption of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning to improve supply chain management, including demand forecasting, inventory optimization, and real-time decision-making.

  • Emergence of new refrigeration technologies that use natural refrigerants, such as carbon dioxide or ammonia, for greater energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact.

  • Development of new packaging materials and technologies that can extend the shelf life of perishable products and reduce food waste.

Topics: Cold Storage