Cold storage business is important in ensuring the smooth operations f other industries. Proper storage is crucial requirement for firms that deals in perishables goods, without a proper inventory storing place their entire produce will go waste, and so will all the financial and human resources invested in the production process. According to a report by Crisil, the cold storage industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13–15 per cent till 2023, mainly driven by rising demand for processed food, fresh fruits & vegetables, seafood and bio-pharmaceuticals in exports markets. Though the initial investment in a cold storage plant is huge, and involves a lot of paperwork but the business surely ensure continues long term returns, once established.
Despite the necessary nature of the industry, the progress of cold storage in the country has also been extremely skewed. As per the NCCD data for 2019, Uttar Pradesh contributes the maximum cold storage space in the country, around 33 per cent followed by Gujarat at 15 per cent. A cold-storage owner has to face several problems – legal, administrative, operational, and environmental - to keep the plant functional. Here are some of the problems the cold storage plants face-
- Infrastructure –
One of the biggest initial challenges is to build a suitable infrastructure for the cold storage plant, itself. It requires careful identification of location of the plant, which is not too far from the production outlet and is connected through a proper transportation system. Once the location is chosen, well trained and specialised workers are required for its construction. They should have knowledge and experience in fitting and installing the freezers, condensers, and other devices. It requires huge financial commitment as well.
- Workers Protection-
Another challenge is to keep the workers well protected all the time. People working in refrigeration facilities need to stay warm, so proper protective gear should be made available to them. The workers are highly prone to get ill because of extreme working condition and environment. They deal with electric equipment on daily basis; cases of electrocution have to be accounted for.
- To maintain the product temperature-
Each product has its own temperature for it to stay fresh and consumable for long term. However, every time a product is placed in the warmer area from the freezer zone- for example, when it needs to be picked and palletized- it loses its required temperature and gets warm. So when the product is brought back to the fridge after being out for some time, it needs to be carefully put inside by to maintain the temperature so that it does not get spoiled or unfit for consumption.
- To Maintain Different Temperature Zones-
But maintaining a cold storage plant is actually a lot more difficult than that. For example, depending on the type of product being stored, different areas of the same warehouse need to be stored at different temperatures- fresh products should be kept at 12.778 degrees Celsius, dairy products should be kept at 1.11 degrees Celsius, meat should be stored below freezing at -2.22 degrees Celsius, Ice cream should be at – 23.33 degrees Celsius.
- To Change Temperature Zone Sizes-
All at once, the size of various temperature zones often needs to be scaled up or down depending on the number of products. In traditional warehouses, layout relocation is relatively straightforward- one can move or stack material pallets until they are in the right place. But with the cold storage plant facilities, the temperature has to be taken into consideration. The modular curtain wall system is the method by which the problem can be solved.
Continuous and coordinated efforts and investment go into the maintenance and proper functioning of a cold storage plant. There are several challenges a cold storage owner faces from day to day, be it employee health, maintaining proper temperature zones, government clearances, ensuring product quality among others.