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Top intralogistics performance at sub-zero temperatures

From crunchy vegetables to ice cream - the world of frozen goods is diverse and demanding. To keep the goods fresh, the cold chain must not be interrupted. However, constant sub-zero temperatures in the warehouse are not enough. You also need narrow-aisle forklift trucks, industrial trucks and shuttle systems that work reliably and efficiently at all times in frosty conditions.


The demand for frozen food is increasing year on year. In Germany, almost 20 billion euros are spent on frozen food every year; 3.7 million tons of frozen food were sold in Germany in 2021. The success story began almost 100 years ago: Frozen food was sold for the first time in the USA in March 1930. The American biologist Clarence Birdseye came up with the idea when he went ice fishing with the Inuit in Labrador. He was surprised to discover that the fish after freezing and thawing tasted just as good as before.

Another researcher also played a major role in the global success of (frozen) refrigerated food: Carl von Linde (1842-1934), founder of Linde and thus of today's KION subsidiary brand Linde Material Handling, is considered the inventor of the refrigerator. His "Linde’s ice machine" was mainly used in breweries to quickly cool the wort to six to eight degrees after boiling - this improves the taste. Temperatures in modern refrigerated warehouses can be as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius, which poses special challenges: on the one hand, these low temperatures must be constantly maintained. On the other hand, forklifts and shuttle systems must function reliably at such temperatures.

Flexible frozen food options thanks to AutoStore

Helsinki, Finland, knows a thing or two about freezing temperatures. Perhaps that was one reason why Kesko, one of Europe's leading retailers, is taking a decisive step in its e-commerce strategy here. Together with KION subsidiary Dematic, Kesko has set up its first micro-fulfilment center (MFC) in the basement under its supermarket in the Ruoholahti center of the Finnish capital - five meters below sea level. Only frozen products are stored here on 140 square meters. Jussi Hytönen, Program Manager at Kesko, explains why the AutoStore-based solution from Dematic was chosen: "Compared to other automation options, we found the AutoStore solution to be the most flexible and scalable."

And flexibility was essential for this project. The food store manages an extensive stock of around 30,000 products. The micro-fulfillment center was built directly under the shopping center to be able to supply customers with the products from there. 15 robots control a total of 2,442 storage containers. The frozen goods are transferred at a conveyor port workstation. The AutoStore system is designed so that it can be used in temperature zones down to -25°C. The solution has reduced delivery times to just 6 hours. This significantly improved the overall efficiency and throughput of the site and allows for larger quantities for online orders.

Employee comfort in low temperatures thanks to specially equipped Linde trucks

The mission of Parlevliet & Van der Plas (P&P) has been to provide fresh fish worldwide for decades. The company, one of the largest deep-sea fishing groups in Europe, operates a cold store in IJmuiden in northern Holland with a capacity of 60,000 tons of fish.

The Linde E40 electric forklift truck has become almost indispensable for P&P: The truck ensures fast and safe transportation of the fish products. Temperatures of up to minus 20°C sometimes prevail. The heated cabin in the Linde forklift trucks increases comfort and protects the health of the employees, which has led to a significant reduction in sickness-related absences.

But there is another reason why John Zeijderveld, Port Operations & Coldstore Manager at P&P, swears by the Linde E40: the top performance that the electric forklift truck delivers even under the extreme conditions in the coldstore. "In our experience, Linde forklift trucks are of such high technical quality that their economic lifespan far exceeds that of other brands," says Zeijderveld.

Efficient cold store with high storage density

The automated cold storage facility built by 3PL service provider Groupe Robert in collaboration with KION subsidiary Dematic in Quebec, Canada, looks almost unreal: Completely darkened, operated entirely without human intervention, the building houses one of the highest automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) in Canada.

The facility has a capacity of 30,000 pallets for frozen goods. The operation is supported by nine cranes with a height of almost 40 meters, which enable the handling of fresh and frozen products.

"The biggest challenge we wanted to tackle with this project was the limited storage capacity at the time," recalls CEO Michel Robert at the beginning of the planning phase. "Before we decided on our final approach, we changed our strategy four or five times. Dematic was extremely proactive in proposing new solutions." Dematic's adaptability, innovation and proactivity convinced the entrepreneur - the new warehouse in Quebec is now a central hub for frozen goods throughout North America.

Worldwide, the KION Group and its subsidiaries such as Dematic and Linde Material Handling make a significant contribution to increasing efficiency and ensuring food quality with their innovative solutions for cold chain logistics. Whether scalable and flexible micro-fulfillment centers in Helsinki, improved working conditions for forklift drivers in Dutch cold stores or fully automated cold storage facilities in Canada: together, the KION Group challenges the cold and ensures safe cold chains worldwide.