With growing concerns about climate change and electricity costs soaring, the cold storage and distribution sector faces a challenging future, according to Laurie Fisk, Cold Control’s technical director
The UK's refrigeration industry faces major challenges. While ozone depletion is being addressed, the battle against global warming is 'heating' up.
As a big user of electrical power, the cooling industry is in the spotlight in the drive to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. As well as the need for improved energy performance, other environmental issues - such as noise and material sustainability - are driving change throughout the industry.
Continued growth in the refrigerated and frozen food sector has provided good stimulus for the refrigeration industry. With more food being transported across Europe and the UK, demand for refrigerated transport is increasing. These trends suggest major changes in the refrigeration market over the next few years, in terms of technical and product development and in terms of market changes in cold stores.
Currently, it's a very tough environment for the refrigeration industry, prices have deflated over the last five years and logistics companies have had to be very good at making cost savings in order to survive. As competitive pressure increases, refrigeration companies continue to hunt for new ways to streamline operations and enhance productivity to stay ahead of market rivals.
The increase in demand for fresh, frozen and chilled products has led to an increased growth in the installation of cold stores. This increase coupled with the growth for rapid turnaround of goods and JIT logistics has meant that safely storing goods is vital in the supply chain.
However, keeping temperature constant in cold stores and walk in freezers is a challenge faced by a wide variety of manufacturers, processors and storage specialists in the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and the industrial and horticultural industries, amongst many others.
Cold stores operate at various temperatures above and below freezing. Air temperatures may be as low as -40°C. In cold stores the chief concern is temperature control - especially where there are a number of door openings.
The exchange of warm air for cold air that takes place when an entrance to a chill or freezer store is left unprotected can also cause food safety problems, by affecting the temperature of the products themselves. Installing a system to reduce this exchange complies with food safety best practice and can also prolong product shelf-life, all of which add up to further cost-savings.
With energy prices soaring, with no sign of abatement, energy efficiency in manufacturing and storage is vital to keep costs down. To ensure inside temperature remains constant, a number of infiltration reducing devices, such as curtain strips and automated doors, should be installed.
The varied requirements of individual companies are not something to be overlooked. It's not always a simple matter of replacing old with new; in many cases it's about optimum use of existing machinery and processes and ensuring companies know how to use equipment in the most energy-efficient ways. With increased awareness, companies are realising that they need to invest in, and make use of, energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives.
A very high percentage of cold stores in the UK are now very old, it's not uncommon to see stores that are over 30 years old. So many are facing quite major capital investment in the near future, however, long term, choosing the right application can make considerable savings.
Our design engineers can recommend multiple engineering solutions including the appropriate construction panel specification for each individual cold store, which will take into consideration: strength, hygiene, thermal transfer and aesthetics.
Choosing the right material to insulate your cold store is also difficult, with a wide variety of options from rockwool to PIR rigid urethane core panels. Identifying which is the most cost effective, durable and reliable material in both the short and long term is complicated.
Lastly, there should be consideration of the noise that cold stores create, especially if they are located within close proximity of residential houses. Many manufactures are now creating systems with whisper-quiet sound using low noise condensers so hardly any noise is detectable.
While the cold store market continues to grow, even under more and more financial burden, it is worth talking to the experts, as there are many ways to make your cold store even more efficient and make your business more competitive.