What Are the Best Lift Truck Options for Cold Storage?
Cold storage is a crucial part of many supply chains for keeping food, medicine, and other perishable goods safe. Cold storage equipment is becoming even more critical amid rising global vaccine production and a broader emphasis on supply chain resiliency.
Lift trucks aren’t exclusive to cold storage, but they do carry unique requirements in colder environments. Warehouse managers who don’t account for these needs may run into operational issues and high repair costs. Here are a few of the best lift truck options for cold storage to enable smoother, more reliable operation.
New Battery Technologies
Power sources are a leading concern for cold storage equipment. Battery capacity can drop as low as 65% in cold temperatures, dramatically reducing lead times and productivity.
Using lift trucks with lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries instead of traditional lead-acid options is one of the best solutions. Li-ion batteries experience much less power loss in the cold and charge faster, allowing them to run for longer despite less downtime. These power solutions cost more upfront, but the productivity savings will make up for it over time.
Thin plate pure lead (TPPL) batteries are another solution. These provide more power in less space than traditional batteries, mitigating energy loss concerns. Alternatively, environmentally minded warehouses may want to pursue hydrogen fuel-cell lift trucks, although these are less widely available.
Protect Cold Storage Equipment from Moisture
Moisture is another issue cold storage equipment often encounters. When lift trucks leave their cold work environments, frost buildup will turn into condensation, which could rust metal or interfere with electronics. Cold storage operators should look for models with built-in measures to mitigate this moisture.
Many lift trucks designed for cold work environments feature fewer moving parts and wires. Reducing the number of joints and electrical connections creates less space for moisture to interfere with operations. Corrosion and short-circuiting are less likely as a result.
Built-in heating elements are a helpful solution, too. Lift trucks that can heat themselves after leaving cold storage can help the moisture evaporate before it interferes with electronics. Warehouse managers could also use external heating systems to do the same job.
Predictive Maintenance Keeps Things Running
Timely maintenance is always important, but it’s even more critical when machines operate in more extreme conditions. Predictive maintenance, which uses Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to detect maintenance issues as they arise, is the ideal solution.
Many cold chains already use real-time tracking technologies to prevent foodborne illness or product expiration. Similar devices can monitor lift trucks’ internal operations, alerting workers when they need maintenance. Warehouses can then repair them before minor, imperceptible issues lead to larger, more disruptive problems.
Some cold storage equipment comes with these sensors built-in, but retrofitting options are also available. Implementing predictive maintenance systems helps reduce maintenance costs and maximize equipment uptime regardless of the specifics. Low temperatures will wear machines out faster, so that advantage is hard to overlook.
Warehouses also need to consider their lift trucks’ grip. Even the slightest bit of moisture can make surfaces remarkably slippery in cold temperatures, so equipment in these environments must have high-traction tires.
Most electric lifts have polyurethane tires because of their lower rolling resistance, but this offers less grip than rubber. Consequently, businesses may want to use rubber tires on their cold storage equipment instead to take advantage of their improved traction. Some models come with optional rubber tires, but companies can switch them out, too.
Polyurethane tires aren’t entirely out of the question as long as they’re sanded, siped, or treaded. That lets them provide more traction than a typical poly tire, keeping workers safe even in chilly environments. Warehouses may also have to change cold lift truck tires more frequently to maintain this grip.
Automating Cold Storage Equipment
Automated lift trucks are fairly new, but they’re worth looking into for warehouses that have the budget. These options come with higher upfront costs, but they could produce significant productivity gains over time. They may also improve workplace safety, a more pressing concern in cold storage.
Automated lifts prevent driver mistakes, just as inventory management software eliminates data entry errors. Unlike human workers, mechanized systems don’t get tired, distracted, or bored, so they’re less likely to make errors if they’re following a set routine. Their sensors may also let them detect hazards people can’t, helping them avoid obstacles better.
Automating cold storage lift trucks will help prevent crashes and injuries, letting warehouses experience more uptime. It will also free workers to focus on other tasks, further improving productivity. These factors would benefit any work environment, but they’re particularly helpful in the cold.
Find the Right Cold Storage Equipment
Cold storage equipment comes with unique considerations that businesses must go over before making a purchase decision. Warehouse operators who know what challenges they face and what options can address them find the best path forward.
These five options provide the ideal lift trucks for cold storage operations. Warehouses can then uphold the critical cold chain, ensuring perishable items get to end users safely.