A recent article in Dairy Foods Magazine highlights the mechanization and automation trends in dairy food production facilities. Topics include materials-handling automation, software upgrades, refrigeration optimization, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), and how technologies will be integrated to maximize efficiency, traceability, transparency, storage density, optimal material flow, and to better manage warehouse labor in their operations. Viking Cold’s VP of Sales & Marketing, Collin Coker, was interviewed along with other food production warehouse technology providers including LIDD, Tippman Group, Signode Industrial Group, Applied Net Solutions, Westfalia Technologies Inc., and Quest Industrial LLC.
POWER Magazine’s Associate Editor Darrell Proctor recently published an article focused on the rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid after a number of devastating hurricanes including Hurricane Maria in 2017. “The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority has embarked on a $20 billion plan to rebuild the island’s power grid. The initiative includes a commitment to generate 40% of the island’s power from renewable resources by 2025, and 100% by 2050. C&I enterprises using distributed power generation are a large part of the effort.”
Isla Frio, a cold storage company on the island, is building a new 147,000 square foot facility with Viking Cold’s Thermal Energy Storage (TES) technology to add hurricane-resistant food storage capacity to the island. The second phase of the project will include the addition of onsite solar power generation. The combination of renewables with the existing TES installed during construction will maximize the cost-effectiveness of their solar-plus-storage investment and help Puerto Rico meet its aggressive goals to add resilient renewable generation to the grid.
Kevin Lawton, the host of The New Warehouse Podcast, interviewed Viking Cold Solutions’ President & CEO James Bell to discuss the current and future state of digitization and sustainability inside refrigerated warehouses. They discuss how digitization and thermal energy storage work in cold storage to maximize the efficiency, resiliency, and sustainability of the cold chain.
The conversation also covers some of the additional levels of complexity of refrigerated spaces and how the impacts of the pandemic have driven the adoption of technologies such as WMS, automation, robotics, and thermal energy storage inside refrigerated warehouses. James and Kevin also discuss the market conditions driving more construction of cold storage facilities and how digitization and new technology is being included in the design and building of new warehouses.
Additionally, Kevin and James cover the electrical grid impacts of refrigerated spaces, and how with thermal energy storage and warehouse digitization operators can reduce costs and create new revenue streams.
The coronavirus pandemic has greatly disrupted the U.S. food industry, resulting in significant changes in consumer behavior and an increased demand for industrial cold storage warehouse space. With quarantines still in effect around most of the country, consumers have been forced to eat at home more and either “panic-buy” large quantities of extra groceries and/or shift to more online orders more frequently. Additionally, because of its longer shelf-life and surge in available options, the frozen food category has seen significant growth in both online and in-person grocery purchases, forcing grocery and cold storage facilities to scramble to keep up.
According to the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), seven in 10 frozen food shoppers have increased the amount of frozen food they’re buying since the start of the pandemic. Six months in, U.S. shoppers are continuing to stock up their freezers with frozen meals, meats, ice cream, and frozen novelties. Not only is the number of consumers purchasing frozen food growing, but many have also switched to ordering directly online from restaurants and foodservice distributors. The question is: How has this rapidly changing behavior affected the cold storage industry – an essential element of our supply chain dedicated to protecting, delivering, and handling temperature-controlled goods in the United States.
Warehouse demand, in general, has been accelerating in recent years, largely due to the booming e-commerce industry. The world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE), examined the relationship between e-commerce grocery growth and cold storage warehouse capacity in its 2019 “Food on Demand Series: Cold Storage Logistics Unpacked” report, forecasting that in order to meet the demand generated by online grocery sales, an additional 75 to 100 million sq. ft. of industrial freezer and cooler space will be needed within the next five years – an increase of roughly 47%. CBRE researchers also suggest that much of the cold-storage sector’s growth is likely to occur in gateway markets like Los Angeles and the New York area, as well as in top food-producing states such as California, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, and Washington state.
As the pandemic persists, cold storage facilities are at record high capacity and struggling to keep up with the continuous demand. Cold storage facilities typically fall into the categories of public refrigerated warehouses (PRWs), foodservice and wholesale, grocery distribution centers and retail stores, and food processing facilities. Due to changing demand, PRWs have been forced to provide smaller, more frequent orders. National food industry news source, The Food Institute, stated that “Instead of supplying a full pallet of a single product to a warehouse, PRWs are now delivering a pallet with multiple products directly to the store. These small orders increase labor requirements and change transportation options drastically.” Many expect major PRWs to accelerate the industry’s consolidation trend in order to gain more control over the United States’ cold storage footprint.
It is also expected that to address the changing market, cold storage facility operators will be proactively upgrading their warehouses with new technologies to improve operational efficiency and flexibility. Warehouse upgrades that are seeing a surge in popularity include technologies such as Viking Cold Solutions thermal energy storage (TES), warehouse management systems (WMS), and material handling automation and robotic systems. The intelligence platform of Viking Cold’s TES system not only optimizes temperatures and energy use, but provides valuable, actionable data that allows operators to make operational improvements.
Additionally, there has been a growing interest in sustainable, carbon-reducing technologies. Viking Cold’s thermal energy storage systems also address these needs by increasing refrigeration energy efficiency an average of 26% while better protecting food and improving temperature resiliency. By absorbing and consolidating up to 85% of the heat infiltration, TES also allows refrigeration systems to be safely cycled off for up to 13 hours each day to avoid demand or time-of-use energy fees, while maintaining stable temperatures. The technology leverages existing refrigeration systems and easily integrates with controls, other data platforms, and racking structures to bring efficiency, flexibility, and additional food protection to the frozen food chain.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated changes in consumer behavior, implementation of technology, and broad market trends in the food industry. The entire distribution chain from food processors to logistics companies to retailers is under added pressure to make improvements to stay profitable and keep food on our tables. The future remains unclear but enabling technologies like Viking Cold’s TES are helping the food and beverage industry feed our families by improving operations, cutting costs, and lowering the GHG emissions of refrigeration.
HOUSTON, June 23, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Food Logistics, the only publication exclusively dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food supply chain, has named Viking Cold Solutions to the 2020 Top Green Providers list for the fourth consecutive year.
Each year, the criteria for earning a spot on the Food Logistics’ annual Top Green Providers list become more stringent for applicants. For example, the editorial staff evaluates a company’s participation in such programs as the EPA’s SmartWay and other recognized sustainability programs; facilities that are LEED-certified, and/or feature solar panels, LED lighting and other energy-saving installations and retrofits that produce measurable reductions in GHG emissions, to name a few.
“Our annual Top Green Providers award recognizes companies whose products, services or exemplary leadership enhance sustainability within the food and beverage industry. From technology that reduces a fleet’s carbon footprint to software that helps shippers drive energy efficiency to systems and processes that help reduce the carbon and environmental impact of their customers’ supply chains, these top green providers continue to practice the ultimate in sustainability year over year,” says Marina Mayer, Editor-in-Chief of Food Logistics.
Viking Cold Solutions CEO and President, James Bell, responded to the news that the company received its third cleantech-related award this year, “We are honored to be recognized as a Top Green Provider for the fourth year in a row. Helping our customers, such as Whole Foods, Sysco, and Americold, to improve their sustainability, increase resiliency, and better maintain and protect food along its journey is our mission. Viking Cold is committed to using our technology to work with food companies to create a more sustainable supply chain.”
About Food Logistics Food Logistics is published by AC Business Media, a business-to-business media company that provides targeted content and comprehensive, integrated advertising and promotion opportunities for some of the world’s most recognized B2B brands. Its diverse portfolio serves the construction, logistics, supply chain and other industries with print, digital and custom products, events and social media.
About Viking Cold Solutions
Viking Cold Solutions is the leading long-duration thermal energy storage provider to the energy-intensive frozen/low-temperature cold storage industry. Viking Cold delivers cost-effective and flexible energy management services which protect food and help reduce environmental impact. Its patented Thermal Energy Storage system with phase change material (PCM) and intelligent controls reduces cold storage energy costs up to 35 percent or more, while improving temperature stability and optimizing refrigeration operations. Viking Cold Solutions’ TES systems have been measured, verified, and incentivized by energy utilities across the U.S. and are currently in use around the world providing efficiency to grocery stores, low-temperature warehouses, and restaurants.
Power Magazine‘s Darrell Proctor interviewed CEO James Bell after Viking Cold was awarded the Cleanie Platinum Project of the Year Award. James discusses the award-winning project with Massachusetts utility Eversource as well as other benefits beyond storing energy for time-of-use avoidance. He covers how long-duration Thermal Energy Storage also provides reduced mechanical run-time and wear and tear, sustainability improvements, and resiliency for food during extreme weather events or other power outages.
Viking Cold is honored to be the Platinum Winner of The Cleanie Awards Project of the Year for our storage and demand management project with Massachusetts utility Eversource. The awards program recognizes innovation excellence, business leadership, and superior programs within the cleantech and renewable energy sectors. The project involved the installation and commissioning of TES systems to store refrigeration energy and facilitate 1.3 MW of energy demand reduction across eight customer facilities, without requiring any additional real estate for the system components. The average size of the cold storage facilities in the program is approximately 50,000 square feet, with the largest being 157,000 square feet. The end-user customers of the program included Sysco (the world’s largest foodservice distributor), Americold (the world’s largest third-party cold storage company), Greater Boston Food Bank, and multiple frozen food processing companies.
On the MarketScale Energy podcast, President & CEO James Bell explores risk reduction in the cold chain. Dealing with frozen food has a lot of inherent risks: which include the enormous and continuous energy required to safely store frozen food, the variable and continually increasing energy prices, potential loss of power due to increasingly more common natural disasters, refrigeration system mechanical failures, and ultimately liability for lost or damaged product. Thermal Energy Storage (TES) can address each of these issues to add resiliency and efficiency, as well as reduce risks in the storage of frozen food applications.
Food Processing Magazine has published an eHandbook outlining new technologies that food processors can use to improve food safety and food quality in their operations. A number of new food processing technologies and their benefits are described including the food quality and energy-saving benefits of thermal energy storage.