WMS can keep the cold chain from melting

WMS is a valuable tool in warehouse logistics to ensure products move in and out of the facility promptly. Instead of relying on analog record-keeping or manual inputs, a warehouse management system uses state-of-the-art software and tracking to accomplish these tasks. A WMS could be even more integral in cold chain supply lines.

How can a warehouse management system keep the cold chain from melting?

WMS and automation

Warehouse management systems are a prime candidate for automation. Automated retrieval and storage protocols might not be new, but when paired with a WMS, they can increase warehouse efficiency. This is essential in a cold chain supply line because most of the products being shipped have to be stored at a specific temperature and need to be moved in and out of the warehouse as quickly as possible.

A properly calibrated automated WMS can save a company between 50 and 75 percent in labor costs, and reduce energy expenditures between 60 and 80 percent. It also decreases the facility's footprint by 40-50 percent, because less square footage is needed to cater to human workers. This, in turn, prevents the interior temperature of a climate-controlled warehouse from changing dramatically when cold air flows out an open door.

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Not all facilities are good candidates for automation, but those that are already employing a warehouse management system can quickly adopt this technology for their uses.

Implementing process coolers

Industrial equipment, regardless of the industry, generates a lot of heat. In many sectors, this isn't a problem — the heat can merely be allowed to dissipate or be captured and reused to power other equipment. In a cold chain supply line, an increase of even a few degrees can put an entire warehouse of temperature-controlled products at risk.

Process coolers use refrigerant to pull away the heat that is generated by industrial machinery. In many cases, they work much like the refrigerator in your home — pulling heat away so it can be dissipated elsewhere. When tied into a warehouse management system, these chillers can adjust the temperature of a given room or a piece of equipment automatically to prevent putting cold chain products at risk. For facilities that employ automation, process coolers are essential to reduce the problem of the heat generated by automatic loaders/unloaders.

In addition to protecting the merchandise, these devices keep the equipment cooler, which improves worker safety and can even extend the life of the machinery.

Adopting lean management practices

The goal of lean manufacturing and management is to streamline the entire production process, reducing waste and improving efficiency. When it comes to cold chain supply, even if your company doesn't adopt an entirely lean production model, employing some of the tenants of this practice can help reduce downtime and increase product turnaround.

When paired with an efficient warehouse management system, lean practices can help reduce labor costs and order time and eliminate the unnecessary transportation of materials. For cold chain products that need to be kept below a certain temperature, this is an invaluable tool.

A few closing thoughts

Warehouse management systems are no longer optional, especially in cold chain supply lines. Whether you are providing a temporary waystation for these temperature-controlled products or are carrying them from manufacturing to distribution, a well-programmed WMS can save you a lot of time and trouble in the long run. Consider adopting lean management practices and automation to reduce downtime, increase efficiency and ensure that each cold chain product remains at the correct temperature throughout its journey.

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Megan R. Nichols

About the author…

Megan R. Nichols is a technical writer and blogger. Her work has been featured on Manufacturing.net and Industry Today. Megan also manages her own blog, Schooled By Science, posting twice a week. You can keep up with her by following her on Twitter or subscribing to her blog.

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Megan R. Nichols

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