Coloma Frozen Foods needed to consolidate its frozen storage capacity. As a food industry provider of frozen fruits, vegetables, juices and cherry juice concentrates, the company had previously outsourced or leased its frozen storage to four commercial facilities spread out over a 20-mile radius in southwest Michigan.
"Transferring product between four inter-company locations for production, frozen storage and repacking was costly and inefficient," says Brad Wendzel, president of Coloma Frozen Foods (www.colomafrozen.com). "One of the leased freezer facilities had aged beyond its useful life, and much of the racking was too low, requiring inefficient pallet unstacking and restacking before shipping."
To optimize its growth and logistics, Coloma Frozen Foods chose to build 90,000 sq. ft. of new freezer space, including 75,000 sq. ft. of racked freezer space in a new centralized campus facility.
The companies he turned to suggested drive-in rack for its cost-effective, high-density storage capacity that requires fewer aisles and provides better cube utilization than selective rack. Drive-in rack enables storing up to 75% more pallets than selective racking and is ideal for high-traffic and cooler/freezer installations.
"We expect to save about $150,000 to $200,000 a year in reduced labor, management, transportation, energy and maintenance costs using the drive-in rack at our campus facility," says Wendzel. "Our growth potential is substantial, and we expect ROI in less than two years."
With drive-in rack, forklifts drive directly into the rack to allow storage of two or more pallets deep. But because forklifts drive directly into the rack, they tend to take more abuse than other rack structures.
"In freezer applications, the rack is susceptible to forklift impact because reaction time is slower in a cold environment, and peripheral vision can be restricted when operators are bundled up against the cold," says Wendzel. "So rack durability, longevity, ease-of-use and safety were vital to us."
Wendzel was concerned that the industry's typical, light gauge, roll-formed rack he had previously reviewed would be prone to forklift damage and costly replacement.
As a solution, Coloma Frozen Foods chose a rugged bolted rack with structural channel columns. A number of rack features helped the company meet its strength, durability and maintenance goals.
Compared to typical racking, the pallet rack constructed of hot-rolled structural channel column with full horizontal and diagonal bracing offers greater frame strength, durability and cross-sectional area. All Grade-5 hardware provides greater shear strength, and a heavy 7-gauge wrap-around connector plate ensures a square and plumb installation with a tighter connection and greater moment resistance.
Over 23 million pounds of frozen product are stored in Coloma Frozen Foods' freezer and rack space, including 9,000 pallet positions of 4" structural c-channel drive-in rack, Wendzel notes. The rack is five levels high including a floor level, and arrayed from two to five pallet positions deep for both storage efficiency and an ability to accommodate a range of SKUs.
"With the drive-in rack's efficient frozen storage, we've consolidated our operations on one campus and aim to double our re-pack capability," says Wendzel. "The interest and amortization of our new facility is less than what we paid for commercial storage."
Compared to typical rack, the drive-in rack includes a number of features that enhance ease-of-use and safety.
The drive-in load rail construction includes: flared rail entry ends to allow easy bay access; space-saver low profile arms that increase clearance and decrease possible product damage; structural angle rails that "guide" pallets for ease of use; welded aisle-side load arms that eliminate hazardous load projections into aisles; and welded rail stops that prevent loads from being pushed off and increase safety.
For added protection against forklift impact, a forklift tire rub rail was mounted near the floor to guide the vehicle safely into the rack. All uprights and columns also have oversized baseplates for greater rack stability.
According to Wendzel, 2" vertical adjustability of the bolted drive-in rack also allows for a variety of configurations for current or future products. "The efficient frozen storage of our drive-in rack has been key in helping us to expand, cut cost and improve safety while consolidating our facilities."
John Ellis is Midwest regional manager for Steel King Industries (www.steelking.com).