By Mary Hart
Imagine a section of your warehouse that keeps things cool even during the warmest summer months (and we sure did have those this year). In the United States alone, there is currently 3.7 billion cubic feet of gross refrigerated storage capacity, and approximately 225 million square feet total in U.S. cold storage footprint, according to the USDA.
Refrigerated cold storage containers inside warehouses are imperative for the preservation of perishable items like vaccines, medicines, and blood samples in pharmaceutical and medical warehouses and chemical reagents and disinfectants.
However, the colder temperatures required for these products bring unique challenges that can hinder efficiency and productivity. Enter the world of robotics — sophisticated autonomous machines that are designed to excel in both ambient or chilled environments.
Robots for All Seasons
In both hot and colder (refrigerated, not freezer) working conditions, robots can aid their human colleagues without breaking a sweat or needing a sweater. Designed with resilience and safety always in mind, robots can function seamlessly, even when faced with being near refrigerated cold storage environments.
Why Robots in the Warehouse?
In cold storage containers with temperatures that may not make Batman’s Mister Freeze happy (we’re not talking about deep freeze temperatures here – just refrigerated cold storage) but would take the chill off a warm day, robots are the perfect colleagues for human associates. By taking on the transportation tasks for the humans, the robots alleviate the push-pull injuries that associates previously would have from pulling carts that could hold 300 pounds or more.
At UPS Healthcare, our autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) work throughout the facility, including cold storage, which was the first use of the bots in a cold chain environment for a unique and compliant solution. They operate in and out of the cooler environment, where the team processes products onto the bots and the bots enter the cooler through an automatic door.
Robots can also help you save space in your warehouse, as opposed to conventional fixed solutions like conveyors. Their sleek and functional designs combine with intelligent routing to ensure every precious inch in your cold storage is effectively utilized.
Additionally, the modern robotic systems’ ability to provide real-time data insights allows managers the luxury of remote oversight — meaning they can make crucial decisions without having to head into the cold storage section themselves.
While introducing these robotic colleagues might seem like a hefty investment upfront, it’s not. With our robots-as-a-service (RaaS) subscription model, the costs are shifted from CapEx to OpEx and you pay for the right amount of robots you need as you need them for your warehouse.
Getting Beyond Transport
Beyond the immediate operational benefits, robots can assist in addressing broader challenges for your warehouse, in both cold storage and warmer temperatures, by assisting with picking, pallet transport, putaway, and multi-level mezzanine management.
Cold storage environments are critical given the nature of goods they store for both chemical and pharmaceutical products. As industries evolve and demands increase, the role of technology, especially robotics, becomes paramount. Robots, designed for all seasons, bring a multitude of benefits — from ensuring worker safety to enhancing operational efficiency.
For warehouse managers navigating the crisp, cool breeze (sorry, I stepped into a York Peppermint Pattie commercial there) and challenges of cold storage, robots aren’t just a luxury; they are fast becoming a necessity.
Talk to us and learn how our AMRs can help your cold storage warehouse environment. We won’t leave you out in the cold.