Cold storage is a massive American industry. It’s a vital part of the food supply chain, linking producers with wholesalers, retailers and consumers. Temporarily storing food products in temperature-controlled and secure environments ensures products are kept fresh and remain at the highest possible quality. Whether storage is short or long duration, picking the right cold storage facility is crucial for food and other temperature-sensitive product producers.
There are over 600 cold storage companies in the United States. However, the top 10 control approximately 80% of the cold storage market. That amounts to an anticipated annual growth of 1.07 percent valued at $23 billion in 2018.
With such volume and competition for a lucrative market share, it can be a real challenge in deciding how to choose a cold storage provider.
To a food producer or packager, a cold storage facility is an invaluable third-party logistics (3-PL) partner in storing, handling and distributing products along the supply chain. It can be a complex process unless all parties work as a team to get successful results. But, it doesn’t have to be difficult as long as the cold storage partner has the right capabilities. Having a guide to pick the best cold storage company helps make that choice simple.
How to Select the Right Cold Storage Facility
The best advice anyone looking for tips on choosing the right cold storage warehouse can get is this — know who you are as a company. Many product producers make the mistake of taking on roles they don’t specialize in. Simply stated, they wear too many hats. Taking on integral food and product storage over producing expertise leaves companies spread too thin. They’re inefficient and, therefore, less profitable.
There’s a clear distinction between a production or processing company and a distribution company. Cold storage facilities specialize in handling and shipping products, not producing them. Just as it’s not practical for a cold storage company to produce foods on the front end, it’s rarely effective for a production company to deliver at the end use. Partnering with a competent facility is the ticket to success, and selecting the right cold storage company is the key.
There are many things to consider when choosing a cold storage facility. To start with, it’s essential to know what capacities a potential 3-PL partner has. Cold storage can be a general warehousing term that needs a bit of qualifying. The food and temperature-sensitive warehouse industry has three separate divisions for storing and handling products that include:
- Ambient Warehousing: Most warehouses have dry storage capabilities where they store products at room temperature or what’s called ambient conditions. This is the most economical warehouse form as it doesn’t require expensive equipment for reducing and controlling temperature. However, ambient temperatures of over 70 degrees Fahrenheit aren’t suitable for fresh and perishable products.
- Cold Warehousing: Cold storage facilities are also known as refrigerated warehouses. They specialize in storing products at tightly controlled temperatures just above the freezing point. That range is from 33 degrees Fahrenheit up to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. These cold storage conditions are perfect for living products like fruit and vegetables.
- Freezer Warehousing: For freezing conditions, warehouses need greater chilling capacity than general cold storage facilities. Freezer facilities handle products no longer alive like meat and fish or frozen fruits and vegetables. Temperature capacities drop from negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit down to a bone-chilling negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best cold storage facilities have a combination of ambient, cold and freezing capabilities. They ideally serve all producing markets under one roof. Top cold storage facilities strive to blend excellent customer service, superb accessibility and a highly strategic location. They also have full-time temperature monitoring, computerized inventory control and on-site security with 24-hour video surveillance monitoring.
Top Cold Storage Facilities Are Certified by Credible Associations
Top cold storage warehouses belong to the best associations with recognized accreditations. They strive for complete compliance with government regulations as well as adherence to private industry standards. These are some of the organizations that leading cold storage facilities belong to:
- American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI)
- International Association of Refrigerated of Warehouses (IARW)
- National Association State Department of Agriculture (NASDA)
- Frozen Food Handling and Merchandising Alliance (FFHMA)
- US Poultry & Egg Association (USPEA)
Membership in any or all of these credible agencies and organizations is reassurance that a particular cold storage facility is an industry leader. This means the management, staff and employees meet high standards set by the certifying board. Membership also guarantees that all facility equipment is capable of supporting the time and temperature business parameters necessary to provide first-class cold storage warehousing.
Maintaining a leading cold storage facility requires constant systems monitoring and personnel training. Like every high-tech industry, the cold storage business experiences constant change. That can be new equipment that’s more energy efficient or computerized logistics management.
Choosing a cold storage facility requires due diligence. The best ambient, refrigerated and frozen warehouse facilities are transparent businesses. They’re proud to display associations, training and improvements on their website literature. Spending time surfing prospective facility websites will provide insight into their operations. This is an enormous help in choosing a cold storage facility.
Top Considerations in Choosing a Cold Storage Facility
Not all cold storage facilities are alike, by any means. Doing due diligence in choosing a cold storage warehouse requires more than just determining the company’s associations and affiliations. Proper investigation requires a good and hard look at what the facility can do for their clients. It also requires checking into who their current and past clients are and what experiences they had working with the facility.
Track record is a vital sign of how well a cold storage facility operates. Credible refrigeration and freezer warehouses are proud of their track record and will gladly share it. Nothing speaks louder than proven performance. These are some of the things to consider when choosing a cold storage facility based on track record:
- Shipment Timing: Making shipments on time is a critical cold storage facility responsibility. It’s vital that products ship exactly when needed and arrive on time at the end user. Leading cold storage facilities like Central Florida Freezer have a track record of shipping on time 99.99% of the time.
- Truck Turn-Around: Dock loading and unloading time is called turn-around. The most efficient cold storage facilities have a minimal turn-around time for trucks both arriving and leaving the dock. Top facilities like Central Florida Freezer have a proven turn-around time of 15 minutes.
- Service Detention: Truckers should not be detained because of bad service. Time is money in every business, especially the warehousing and transportation industry. Central Florida Freezer proudly proclaims to have virtually no detention due to service.
- Inventory Accuracy: Large-capacity cold storage businesses naturally have big inventories. This results in many products from many different producers destined for numerous end users. Central Florida Freezer has automated inventory control systems to ensure perfect accuracy.
- Security Monitoring: Large capacity warehousing equates to highly-valuable inventories that require tight security. Today, high-technology digital video surveillance systems provide tight monitoring across the entire warehouse. Central Florida Freezer goes beyond video tracking and employs on-site physical security personnel.
- GMP/FSA Ranking: A top-ranked cold storage facility will have superior ratings with nationally-acclaimed General Manufacturing Processes (GMP) and Food Safety Audits (FSA). These two ratings validate that the facility is a committed leader in the warehouse industry. Central Florida Freezer’s reputation stands out among any in the cold storage warehouse business.
- Employee Commitment: Personnel can make or break any business. The cold storage industry depends on committed employees to provide excellent services that let trucks turn-around quickly, shipments happen on time, inventory to be accurate and security be tight. Central Florida Freezer’s employees are the pick of the best.
- Management Expertise: At the wheel of every successful business is its management team. Good management works with committed employees, not against them. Central Florida Freezer has a management team that’s second to none.
One of the leading management and business measurement tools is called Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. This measuring value demonstrates how effectively businesses and their management team reaches important targets. Looking at a cold storage facility’s published KPIs on their annual report gives a good idea of how efficient its business model is.
Location Is Critical in Choosing a Cold Storage Facility
Location is one of the top considerations when choosing a cold storage facility. The location has to mesh with where products are grown or produced as well as where their end destination lies.
Ideally, the best cold storage facility should have a strategic location close to the production site and still within an economical reach of the distribution drop-off points. That minimizes fuel consumption which is a major overhead in every business budget. Shorter runs also lower the carbon footprint and that’s good for the environment.
Finding the ideal warehouse location really depends on the overall transportation mode. Most products requiring cold storage and freezing capabilities use enclosed trailers equipped with reefer units. These can be intermodal systems where containers get transferred to rail and ships or sent as air freight.
Road accessibility is highly important. Locations with easy and safe access are far better choices than out-of-the-way places that are hard to enter and exit. Generally, the warehouse business will have made location a top priority when designing and building their facility. The choice may already be made, but it’s still an important factor when deciding what the best cold storage facility is for an individual’s needs.
Warehouse Capacity Is Important
When choosing a warehouse, pay particular attention to its current capacity. The cold storage facility has to have a proper capacity to handle expected shipments. This can vary throughout the year due to seasonal production adjustments. That can be when certain food crops are ready or consumer demand increases due to holiday preferences.
Take into account that cold storage facilities operate quite differently than strictly ambient-spaced warehouses. Cold storage buildings have to maximize space use while keeping energy costs as low as possible. In cold storage warehousing, cubic foot volume is a more important factor than square-foot floor space.
The best cold storage facilities maximize their energy returns by making the best use of interior ceiling height. They want to ensure they’re not expending costs through cooling airspace that’s never utilized. Subsequently, ceiling heights become a factor for choosing facilities where products are suitable for floor stacking only, and not able to be stacked vertically or set on racks.
Consider Cold Storage Facility Energy Requirements
Every cold storage facility depends on electricity as primary energy sources. Electricity is clean, fairly economical and environmentally friendly. However, electricity can be somewhat unreliable. That’s particularly prevalent in Florida where high winds and electrical storms sometimes knock out the power grid for days.
Having a cold storage facility in a hot climate can be disastrous when the electricity supply goes out. That’s unless they have a suitable backup power generation system that keeps chillers and freezer equipment uninterrupted during and after a storm. Be sure that the cold storage facility has a backup generator or it could result in a major financial loss from spoiled products.
Something else to consider is what type of coolant and freezing systems a facility uses. Today, almost all hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) systems are gone. However, there are still facilities using chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) equipment. The best current cooling and freezing systems remove chlorine and operate on just hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) for better protecting the Earth’s ozone layer.
Questions to Ask a Cold Storage Supplier
Part of due diligence in choosing a cold storage facility is asking the supplier questions. Every credible facility manager or representative will be happy to answer whatever question comes their way. Here are some of the best questions to ask a cold storage supplier:
- How long have you been operating?
- What capacity does your facility have?
- Do you have ambient, cold and freezing warehouse areas?
- What type of inventory management system do you use?
- What temperature controls do you implement?
- What are your security systems?
- Do you supply a service guarantee?
- Do you have customer referrals available?
- What value-added services do you offer?
- What is your safety record?
Use these questions as a guide to choosing a cold storage facility. The right facility will meet your diligence test and the manager or customer service representative will happily elaborate on each point. In the end, the best storage facility will be one you can build a long-term relationship with.
Choose Central Florida Freezer as Your Cold Storage Facility
Central Florida Freezer is a leading cold storage warehouse. As our name implies, we’re located between Gainesville and Orlando in central Florida. For years, we’ve guaranteed accessibility, trust and supreme service to our valued customers. It’s long-term relationships that we value.
Our central Florida cold storage facility is newly renovated. We have 5,000,000 cubic feet with assorted freezer, refrigerator and ambient space. No matter what shipment sizes you have, we have the capacity to accommodate you. We also have state-of-the-art temperature controls, 24-hour video recorded surveillance and on-site security personnel.
At Central Florida Freezer, we take pride in our 3-PL track record. We have on-time shipments, virtually no detention due to service and absolutely accurate inventory controls. Central Florida Freezer also has superior GMP and FSA rankings.
Find out more about our cold storage facility and contact us for information about how we can be your number one choice as an ambient, refrigerated and freezer warehouse. We can offer you a quote, or you can also give us a phone call at 320-297-6067.