High-speed doors maximize high-ceiling design for cold storage

The combination of high-speed doors and forklift computers on the loading dock enables pallets to be picked up the second it exits the freezer room, thereby protecting product quality.

The high-speed, high-cycle doors ensure the doorway is not a pinch-point. As a result, the facility is capable of taking in more than 1000 pallets per day and handling 2000 stock-keeping units (SKUs) for multiple clients, keeping this vast freezer area full and active.

The coordination between the automated system and forklift drivers on the dock is up-to-the-second and in real-time. The warehouse management system (WMS) communicates with each forklift by way of an on-board computer. Once the driver picks up a pallet at the receiving door, the WMS receives notification.

The system alerts the freezer crane that a load is on its way. By the time the forklift reaches the doorway, the crane is ready. The door rapidly opens, enabling the crane to quickly pick up the pallet and retreat into the freezer. The entire hand-off is complete and the door is closed again in under two seconds, minimizing product exposure on the warmer dock.

There is also a safety consideration. The insulated panel’s heat transfer barrier on the door prevents itself from becoming a condenser. This means moisture will not form on the panel surface and then drip on the floor. Wet floors or ice on floors are a slip hazard for personnel and can cause injuries.

Doors are the one kinetic element of a building. In the case of cold-storage facilities, the choice of doors can determine the operation’s ability to meet schedules, budgets, and profit targets.

The once growing frozen food market stood at “$22 billion in 2016, almost identical to the four years prior,” according to an article in Food Manufacturing. In the face of nearly flat market conditions, efficient frozen food-handling/processing facilities call for even tighter operations. Advancements in high-speed door design and integration into cold-storage facilities will enable the industry to continue meeting the demands of retail customers and maximize profit throughout the supply and distribution channel.

For years, cold-storage facilities were faced with a choice:

  • install a solid panel door to prevent heat transmission from the room; or
  • cover the doorway with a fabric roll-up door that delivers high-speed and minimizes infiltration.

While the solid panel doors did a great job of offering insulation as thick as the freezer room walls, its lumbering speed slowed down traffic and was a target for forklifts. On the other hand, fabric roll-up doors are ideal for 24/7 operations, but for locations running two shifts and taking breaks during the holidays, the freezer system had to work harder during those periods to keep the room at freezing.

Recent advances in door design now offer some options. The fabric curtain on roll-up doors can be insulated and manufacturers are making the seal around the doorway even more secure.

Solid panel door speed is now over 3048 mm (120 in.) per second for bi-parting models, minimizing the amount of cold air escaping to the dock and the invasion of warmer air. As for the problem of forklift collisions, these doors have impact-resistant panels and can be easily aligned and reset to get back into operation.

The main determining factor is available wall space for the solid panel doors. Nevertheless, both styles can handle taller doorways and keep up with traffic as well as the demands of 24/7 operating schedules.

Michael F. Watkins is vice president of marketing at Rytec High Performance Doors, a manufacturer of high-speed doors for industrial, commercial, food and beverage, and controlled-temperature environments. Watkins has consulted to the communications, industrial and durable goods industries and has held management positions in marketing, business development, and new product development. He can be reached at mwatkins@rytecdoors.com.

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