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Protecting Your Warehouse Against the Cold

Large modern empty storehouse Just like our homes and offices, warehouses need a little TLC from time to time. Retail companies that use a warehouse to store their inventory (as well as retail behemoths that run their own warehouses and oversee almost every aspect of their supply chain, like Amazon) likely know some of what goes into keeping warehouses, and the goods within them, in good working order. They know that a warehouse in very hot or very cold weather requires special consideration. The biggest issue in both cooling and heating a warehouse is the space’s size: Warehouses are often huge, airy and difficult to maintain the temperature of without using massive amounts of energy. Keeping a warehouse safe from the cold in winter is a unique challenge, and one that is dangerous to overlook: Not only will inventory be affected by a poorly insulated warehouse (leading to deterioration and obsolescence), but the well-being of employees will also suffer. [Tweet "The biggest issue in both cooling and heating a warehouse is the space’s size."] There is no one way to protect warehouses from the cold, all warehouses are unique and have different issues. Keep all of the following in mind when prepping your warehouse for the upcoming winter season.

Ensure efficient and up-to-date heat generation

In cold places, there’s bound to be some kind of thermal heating system. For some people, investing in new industrial-sized propane heaters seems like it should be the solution to the “too cold” problem. Hook those up, let the heat flow, and let it be. sid-free-consultation-0516 A poorly maintained heater is not only a health risk, it also doesn’t heat the warehouse as efficiently as possible, leading to unnecessarily high energy bills as well as a poorly heated space. Commit to regular maintenance of heat systems in the months leading up to and during winter, to ensure optimal use and longer life. One tool that many businesses use when committing to regular maintenance of things like heaters and air conditioners is to invest in a fixed asset management system. Automated software will automatically depreciate an asset, sending out alerts when preventative maintenance is needed and keeping reminders as to when a machine broke down and how it was fixed. This will keep heaters in good working order and ensure that you stay tax compliant, writing off the investment using a proper depreciation method such as straight-line or accelerated.

High volume fans are your friend

The layperson may think of fans as a good way to cool down, but those in the know recognize that fans, particularly High Volume, Low Speed (HVLS) fans, can do a lot to regulate temperature in any season:
  • HVLS fans can act as a barrier between inside and outside air, for warehouses that can’t keep doors closed even in frigid conditions. They can destratify the air in the warehouse by moving cool air from the bottom to mix with the warm air (which rises) up top, creating temperate conditions.
  • Similarly, if the air near the roof of the warehouse is warm while the floor is cold, HVLS fans can redistribute the air rather than adding more sources of heat to it. Moving warm air to cooler parts of the warehouse can reduce temperatures by up to 5 degrees.
  • HVLS fans can also fix “Sweaty Slab Syndrome.” Stratified air will leave excess moisture on the floor of the warehouse, which creates the risk of slipping and falling. Well-circulated air will evaporate that moisture.
Generally speaking, fans that move a large amount of air slowly through a room can be a more cost-effective fix that buying new thermal heaters or redesigning the space to feature more windows and skylights (in order to add warmth from sunlight). [su_divider top="no" size="2"]

Related Article: Barcode Labels That Beat the Heat

[su_divider top="no" size="2"] Other ways to increase airflow include installing wire shelving to let air move in and around inventory more easily. interior of a warehouse

Retain heat as much as possible

Doors of the warehouse are a major source of heat loss, and in some places it’s impossible to keep those doors closed, especially as shipments move in and out. Rather than resigning ourselves to this reality, investments in how your doors retain heat are possible and sometimes cost-effective. For example, while insulated dock panel doors can be pricey to install (especially if there are many dock positions), insulation kits provide great value and are easy to install. Other quick but effective fixes include adding weather strips or seals to the gaps at the tops, bottoms and sides of all doors; and ensuring that tractor trailers are backed up tight against seals before opening dock doors. Retaining heat is as much about good practices as it is investment in quality materials and infrastructure. Teach good heat retention practices to every employee and manager on the floor in order to create a culture of awareness around the issue.

Move as efficiently as possible

Warehouses are not yet at the point where drones will do most (if not all) of the warehouse duties currently performed by workers. Some activities, such as picking and packing, are simply too tactile for a modern-day machine. That means warehouse workers sometimes have to toil in warehouses that are uncomfortably cold, despite bulking up in jackets and other winter-wear. How can that discomfort on the warehouse floor be minimized? Warehouses that implement barcode-based inventory management systems have identified one way: They can get employees through the warehouse efficiently, and back into comfortable spaces quicker. Some major warehousers have started using “chaotic storage” to stock their shelves, wherein inventory is placed seemingly at random on any shelf with available space. After scanning the barcodes of the item and the corresponding shelf, the warehouse’s centralized database can later use that information to help draw the most efficient path from shelf to shelf for workers who need to find those items for a shipment. Keeping warehouse workers looking fruitlessly for missing inventory or sending them back and forth with what is essentially busy work is not a quality method of keeping them engaged, happy or warm. Helping them feel that each step they take is important and necessary is the best way to run a warehouse currently in the midst of a cold snap. In all, prepping a warehouse for the cold is about making sure the proper investments have been made in both the makeup of the warehouse itself and in the tools warehouse workers use to make their jobs easier and more efficient. Make sure all equipment is up to date, that you have cost-efficient methods of keeping air temperature regulated, that little-to-no artificially produced heat is wasted and that employees are happy, and you’ll be preparing for spring and summer in no time.