Drive-in rack helps Coloma Frozen Foods expand, cut cost, and improve safety
When transferring product among four inter- company locations for production, frozen storage, and repacking became costly and inefficient, Coloma Frozen Foods needed to consolidate its frozen storage capacity. As a food industry provider of quality frozen fruits, vegetables, juices, and cherry juice concentrates, the company had previously outsourced its frozen storage to commercial facilities spread over a 20-mile radius in southwest Michigan.
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. Looking to maximize frozen storage efficiency and repacking capability, company president Brad Wendzel turned to Southwest Docking and Handling, a material handling and automated systems distributor, and Steel King Industries, a storage system and pallet rack manufacturer.
The companies suggested drive-in rack for its cost-effective, high-density storage capacity.
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” says Wendzel. “We expect ROI in under two years.”
“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 would be prone to forklift damage and costly replacement.
Southwest Docking and Handling recommended and Coloma Frozen Foods chose SK3000® pallet rack, a rugged bolted rack with structural channel columns, by Steel King. Several rack features helped the company meet its strength, durability, and maintenance goals.
Compared to typical racking, pallet rack constructed of hot-rolled structural channel column with full horizontal and diagonal bracing offers greater frame strength, durability and cross-sectional area. A heavy 7-gauge wrap-around connector plate ensures a square and plumb installation with a tighter connection and greater moment resistance.
“Over 23,000,000 lbs. of frozen product are stored in (our) freezer and rack space, including 9,000 pallet positions of 4” structural c-channel drive-in rack, says Wendzel. 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.
According to Southwest Docking and Handling’s President Jim Nowicki, the drive-in load rail construction includes: flared rail entry ends for easy bay access; 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.
For added protection against forklift impact, a 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.
“The efficient frozen storage of our drive-in rack has been key in helping us to expand, cut cost, and improve safety” concludes Wendzel.