Managing a food distribution centre can be a tough task with many challenges to solve, often on the fly. Thus, if you have the opportunity to optimise your facility’s design at the planning stage, it’s vital to gather as much input as you can regarding how to maximise key features. Here are four areas of interest.
Regulating temperature and humidity is an essential consideration in the food industry and one which extends to your distribution facility. As part of your design, there should be well-defined and tightly sealed storage areas for each product which requires a specific range of temperature. Sufficient insulation should also be used in the walls, floor, and ceiling of storage areas.
Heat transfer between areas drives energy costs and also leads to the risk of condensation on surfaces; in turn, this moisture leads to corrosion and possible mould formation. Install industrial high-speedrapid roll doors in high-traffic areas to minimise heat transfer as workers move to and from the cold storage with their loads.
Any facility that handles and stores food has the potential to attract infestations of vermin, mould, and other sources of contamination. To avoid being the weak link in the supply chain leading to a dreaded product recall, you’ll need to ensure sanitation standards that are at least on par with those of the original processing plant itself.
Choose equipment that’s easy to clean and maintain and coat surfaces with impervious finishing. While such materials will still eventually need to be replaced, this makes it easier for employees to comply with the requirements of regular cleaning. You should also appoint a team to conduct periodic safety inspections and check for issues such as cracked sealing or leakage.
Warehouse managers are well-aware of how a facility’s layout can impact their workers’ efficiency. For example, your receiving area may be the critical point of leverage to improve worker productivity. If this space is too small because your layout has allocated most of the floor area to storage, the tight conditions here can stifle the rate of unloading, which in turn delays all subsequent operations.
Bring someone onboard your team who has industrial design expertise. Their input can help avoid this sort of error, as well as improve the layout in other ways, such as optimising picking routes and devising effective product flows that prevent delays and possible spoilage.
With your need to regulate the humidity and temperature levels within your facility, constant cleaning and maintenance of equipment and structures, and the inevitable wear and tear brought about by heavy traffic, the operating costs can go up pretty quickly.
Design offers an opportunity to mitigate some of these concerns. The right choice of materials and structural features can offer significant long-term cost savings. Solar panels on your roof can help subsidise energy costs; larger, double-paned windows can bring in more natural light with minimal thermal transfer. While you can’t always afford to power down appliances when not in use, purchasing energy-efficient versions as much as possible will also cut down on energy consumption.
Sometimes you’ll have the opportunity to make these changes down the line, but it can be difficult to upgrade your facility while proceeding with business as usual. Take the opportunity to optimise your facility as early as the design stage to maximise the long-term benefits.