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28 February 2017

Automated Cold Storage Warehouse Coming to US

Netherlands-based company NewCold is investing over $50 million in a new automated cold storage facility stateside. The project will be the first large-scale United States installment for NewCold according to Jonas Swarttouw, business development manager for US operations. Called Tacoma Automated Coldstore, the facility is set to be built in Tacoma, Washington, just outside Seattle. Once built, Tacoma Automated Coldstore will be among the biggest cold warehouses in the country – more than 25 million cubic feet and standing 130-feet tall. It’s a project of firsts; the warehouse will also be the first automated cold storage warehouse in the state.

The new facility is set to open by the end of 2017 with the sponsorship of Trident Seafoods. The multi-customer warehouse will be open to any interested party, though Trident Seafoods will be the main tenant. Midway through the year, NewCold will take steps towards launch by hiring 100 people for operations.

Some will be hired as forklift drivers; others will serve as the face of the company to customers and transportation companies. Certain daily tasks will be carried out by robots – things like moving products around to pick up customer orders. A computer will be responsible for delegating tasks to these robots. People will be hired to maintain the robots’ hardware and system operators will ensure automation is in working order.

Img: Calgary Region
It’s no picnic working in cold storage, unless you’re happy to spread a blanket on a rocky tundra on Mars. That’s a bit of an exaggeration (temperatures average -60°C on the red planet), but interior temperatures in these continuously-operating facilities are below zero degrees. Additionally, in this rapid day-and-age, customers expect fast shipment, requiring workers to work around the clock to fill orders, and, according to Swarttouw, “there’s not as many people interested” in the night shift.

Automation solved these problems for NewCold facilities in Europe. Machinery is well-equipped to deal with the cold and can run tirelessly at all hours, enabling customers to order as they like. New items in storage can be kept in low oxygen, lightless environments until they are needed.  Additionally, computerisation allows for items to be tracked from the moment they enter the warehouse.

Fisher Construction of Burlington is the company responsible for executing the build. It has a storied history in the field, having designed and built more than 2.5 million square feet of cold storage spaces. However, NewCold’s project is their first go at an automated warehouse. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).