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WHY should a company like Orion Cold Storage want to install mobile racking?  It’s expensive at more than two times  the price of  fixed  racking .

It requires more attention to  the design of the cold store floor so as to spread the point loads which come down through the rails. It is not as simple to use as fixed racking, requires additional training for operators and  regular maintenance. So why don’t cold stores just stick to fixed racking?

James Cunningham director of Barpro Storage says in the bad old days, South African cold stores simply block stacked product in their rooms. When this became problematic fixed racking was  the ‘cheap’ alternative   as it gave immediate accessibility to every pallet position. But the need for forklift access meant that 50% of the cold store volume could not be used for storage.  As such space is both expensive to create and increasingly expensive to run at the correct temperatures,  it is critical that as many pallets as possible can be stored in an accessible way.  “Mobile racking is the answer to that problem. If you take the total capital cost of a cold store and divide it by the number of pallets that can be practically stored inside, the  cost per pallet position for mobile racking will nearly always be cheaper than  for fixed racking,” Cunningham says.

The argument that mobiles are only  suitable for the storage of slow moving palletised stock is also outdated as  British  cold stores now combine mezzanine picking floors with mobiles so as to both store and pick stock on the same premises.

When it comes to running costs, the largest one in a cold store  is labour. With a real time warehouse management system, a 5000 pallet store with mobiles can be run effectively with very few people. Electrically, mobiles save power by only switching on  lights  in the open aisles. By doubling the capacity of a cold store, the energy cost per pallet is effectively halved.  Certainly,  mobile bases need electricity to move, but the motors are  geared so that a mobile base with 360 tons of product can  be moved at less cost than it takes to boil most  domestic kettles.”

Understanding the need for energy efficiency, the Orion Cold Storage facility has been designed to keep energy costs to a minimum for the life of the store. Features include energy efficient lights, superior dock seals,  special cold room access doors, variable speed compressor motors as well as mobile racking. If South African cold stores could bench mark their energy usage as their Australian counterparts are about to do, there is little doubt that Orion Cold Store would be the one to beat,” Cunningham says.

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