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Cold storage innovations like automatic retrieval strengthen the cold chain

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Total Construction’s Tony Tate has seen first-hand the advancements in the cold chain over the last 10 years and believes the sector is now reaping the benefits.

Storage is a critical component of the cold chain because if it fails at any point, from the start of production to the point of sale, manufacturers must incur the cost.

Total Construction works with several stakeholders within the food and beverage industry on cold storage, which has given Tony Tate, the head of the food and beverage division at the company, an insight into how to best manage cold storage.

“We have been doing a lot of frozen automatic retrieval systems for cold storage but not as much in the chilled area. We also work with combinations of chilled and frozen though,” said Tate.

While Total Construction currently has a stronger presence in cold storage over the chilled sector, the company is still adept at both.

“One of our clients has a 12,000-storage pallet freezer, which is an automatic retrieval system and they have about 500 pallets for chilled and they manufacture fresh every day. Depending on the clients it either goes into chilled storage or frozen storage,” said Tate.

This practise is a critical starting point for better shelf life on cold food products, which have a limited time to be sold, such as meats.

“Sausages, for example, have about 15 days shelf life raw before they have to be cooked, but you can lose five days going to Perth, so it is also about logistics and distribution to prolong shelf-life,” said Tate.

To make sure the temperature in the cold chain is intact, like anything else, once manufactured, the product is chilled, which instantly helps lock in the goodness.

“You don’t allow it to stand there and get spoilage from microorganisms; the better and more controlled your cold chain the longer the shelf life of the product,” Tate added.

Tate said because of the critical nature that refrigeration plays in the cold chain, modern innovations such as digitisation and automatic retrieval systems have helped strengthen the beginning and end of the cold supply chain.

“Temperature control is massively important and needs to be precise to avoid product getting spoiled. Going digital allows for very precise readings, which lessens the risk of temperature storage failures,” he added.

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The digitisation presents a host of advantages that play a part in strengthening the cold chain.

“There is a lot more control accurate temperature ranges and the cold chains and it’s now made very precise by the digital component of it these days,” said Tate.

Total Construction also helps customers identify the best refrigerants for their products to reinforce the cold chain storage.

“Such as CO2, which is more user friendly, which is to say more efficient and environmentally friendly,” said Tate.

“It’s an excellent chilling medium and controls temperatures to a plus-minus of one degree. That is extremely accurate thanks to digitisation as opposed to normal thermostats.

“In terms of helping control the cold chain, its accuracy is a big selling point. It can also send data in real time to a digital device, such as a phone. What that means is if there is even a minor degree difference or a compressor at high temperature can be fixed immediately.”

Tate said manufacturers and producers in the food and beverage industry require builders who know the specific challenges to overcome and requirements to be met when constructing or fitting out a facility.

Tate’s experience in the global food market over decades has afforded him the ability to formulate action plans that are informed by that experience.

“From a building point of view, you need to have the installation value with the insulated sandwich panel which is a key driver because some of these rooms go to -22˚C,” he said.

“The products are supercooled or frozen and that is to compensate for any anomalies in the cold chain.

“If a compressor is set to high and the product goes out at -20˚C, by the time they get it fixed it might only go to -18˚C but it keeps the cold chain intact.”

Tate said the use of autonomous machinery was both profitable and efficient because it uses less energy and can be stored in a dark room.

“It’s robotic and digital so you can scan your product, which goes into automatic retrieval and the client knows every single detail of the product – its shelf life, where it was produced, where the raw materials came from,” he added.

The Australian cold chain has seen positive advancements over the last decade as more manufacturers get involved and create a more diverse cold chain.

“Australia has a good mixture of frozen and chilled. At the start it was only a chilled network in Australia but a lot more manufacturers are using it over the last 10 years, which has helped it improve,” said Tate.

“It takes days to get across Australia, which presents challenges, but the network is quickly becoming more efficient.”

Tate’s knowledge of the cold chain is built from years of experience both in Australia and abroad and it is this level of expertise that has made Total Construction a trusted source for the correct construction and fit outs for food and beverage manufacturing jobs.

“Construction alone is not the biggest benefit to cold chain; the key is how it is designed and that is where we come in,” said Tate.

“We know the requirements and standards, to maintain those standards is. For example, we have the experience to understand that you need antifreeze from the cool room to truck to stop the warm air from getting into the truck and throwing out the temperature.

“Lots of technology has come out with cushions and seals that go to the back of the truck, so you need to full seal the opening of the truck to the loading dock to prevent warm air getting in.”

Tate’s knowledge is a great indicator of the experience and expertise provided to the food and beverage industry by Total Construction.

By protecting the weak links of the cold chain, such as transport from cold rooms storage to trucks, Total Construction can mitigate the risk of spoilage, and by extension, recalls and loss of capital.

“Total Construction has that knowledge and advantages that we understand the latest technologies to mitigate the old faults in the cold chain with innovation, such as the digital age and sealing of the docks. It gives a seamless cold chain,” he said.

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