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Industry Insights

Your Introduction to Cold Storage Warehouses

Stord Marketing

Published Date
March 20, 2019



Today, cold storage warehousing is a critical part of the supply chain for companies that ship groceries, medicine, and many other temperature-sensitive products. Finding the right facility is a difficult task for many shippers.

One reason that cold storage is challenging is specialization, since warehouses have to meet a variety of requirements (like temperature or certifications) to store any given product. The stakes in picking a facility are also high: there are many things that can go wrong (from power failure to mold buildup), so a poor choice can lead to ruined inventory.

Our list of questions will help you make the best decision when you need to find a cold warehouse.

1. Does the warehouse have a suitable dock-to-stock process?

There are two ways to judge this requirement. The first is whether or not a warehouse can move inventory from a truck to cold storage quickly (generally under 45 minutes at the longest). If a facility leaves your inventory in an ambient loading space for too long, it could be damaged or destroyed.

The second way a warehouse can protect your shipments is by extending cold temperatures to the dock. If that’s the case, then a slower unloading time isn’t a risk. Moving product quickly or using temperature-controlled docks are both suitable processes, as long as the facility demonstrates that it will keep your shipment cold from the moment it arrives.

2. Does the facility control humidity and moisture?

Some cold products can’t be stored in humid conditions, but other goods require them. If you ship inventory that needs dry space, you need to ask potential warehouse partners how they control humidity levels and moisture buildup. If they use a dehumidifier and regularly check for condensation, the facility should be safe for your product.

On the other hand, if you ship fresh produce, you will need a much different facility. Look for a warehouse that maintains humid air conditions, but still checks for (and prevents) excessive moisture, mold, and mildew.

3. Is the storage space acceptably clean?

Food, medical supplies, and many other sensitive products need clean storage space. If you’re shipping something similar, you need to make sure your provider follows the right sanitation requirements. For example, warehouses should establish clear guidelines for pest control, clean space and equipment regularly, and reject damaged or contaminated loads from other shippers.

Some products, especially fresh produce and other raw food, need more than just clean storage space. They often require specific sanitation methods to protect against threats like bacterial growth or pest infestations. For example, many facilities pump ozone into the air to keep fruits and vegetables clean, or place rodent traps every 20-40 feet. If you need specific cleaning practices, you should make sure that any potential warehouse partner can provide them.

4. Can the warehouse guarantee accurate inventory counts?

Inventory accuracy in cold storage is a priority for shippers because many goods and products have limited shelf lives. These expiration dates mean that missed shipments or inaccurate tracking often result in ruined product.

You should ask each provider how they track inventory at the warehouse level before you make a decision. If they can demonstrate high accuracy and effective record-keeping (whether through a proven track record with statistical evidence, customer testimonials, or some other method), you can feel confident about a partnership.

5. Are there contingency plans in case there’s a disruption?

A good cold storage warehouse needs a backup plan in case there’s a power outage, malfunction with the cooling system, problem with machinery, or some other disaster. Each facility should already have one in place, and should also be able to explain it to you easily.

Asking warehouses about their contingency plans is important for two reasons. First, it shows you whether or not a provider has thought about disruption at all. If they haven’t, you shouldn’t store your inventory there. Secondly, if you are choosing between multiple partners that both have plans, you may find that one is much more prepared than the other, which will help you make your final decision.

6. Is there any risk of contamination from other inventory at the warehouse?

You should also consider whether or not other goods in a cold warehouse could harm your inventory. For example, many dangerous chemicals could ruin products like food or medicine if they come into contact.

Even non-dangerous items can sometimes damage other goods. For example, the odor from potent spices (if stored improperly) can pollute and harm nearby food product. To prevent this, you should ask potential partners what their guidelines are for keeping sensitive inventory safely separated. If everything is packaged in airtight containers, your product should be safe.

7. Can the warehouse offer additional services?

The availability of additional services at a cold warehouse can also help you make your decision. For example, many facilities take frozen, bulk inventory and repackage it in smaller boxes or containers before moving it to storage. This packaging at the warehouse may save you time or resources at the next step of your supply chain.

Another example: if you need to chill something quickly, a facility with a blast freezer (which rapidly chills product on arrival) may be the best choice. You should check to see if a provider offers either of these services, or anything else your inventory can benefit from.

Happy hunting on your search for a cold warehouse! If you have any questions, or want to explore more options in this field, STORD is here to help!