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15 March 2017

Preferred Services Richland – The Largest Freezer in North America

The level of demand for chilled and frozen goods means that, across the world, there are a lot of pretty big cold storage warehouses, but due to the necessarily power and equipment necessary to keep them cold, there’s certainly an upper size limit. Well, there was, until Preferred Services took that limit and treated it like a challenge.

In 2015, they opened the largest cold storage facility in North America in Richland, Washington State. Not only is it one of the biggest freezers in the world, it’s a technological marvel. Every day, up to 300 heavy duty goods trucks ship out from the huge white facility, stocked up with fruit, vegetables and meat. A further 10-12 rail cars also roll through to pick goods up.

With 455,000 square feet of floor space, it’s one of the biggest storage facilities in the world, cold or otherwise, but it’s when you step inside and see how it functions that the real fun begins. You can’t even go inside without an oxygen tank – the atmosphere is chilled to sub-zero temperatures with liquid nitrogen, and around two thirds of the hulking structure is freezer space.

Since it’s such an unfriendly environment if you’re, well, alive, the systems inside are almost completely automated – a maze of conveyor belts and monorail tracks. The facility has four automated docking systems, which require absolutely no human intervention after the delivery truck pulls up. Once inside the -10 storage area, the crates of goods are stacked by cranes, a process which is managed by workers in a central control room.

So efficient is this system that the warehouse only requires 150 on site staff and a further 40 drivers to function. At full capacity, the facility could store about 113,000 tonnes of food.
img Preferred Freezer Services
Within mere months of opening, the warehouse was already 70% full, and when it was built, further space was deliberately left open to allow for an expansion of up to 33%. Recent reports suggest that an expansion could soon happen, and if it does the warehouse will grow to around 606,000 square feet, making it bigger than the Tesla Warehouse in California, and almost as big as Germany’s enormous Meyer Werft shipyard.

The Richland freezer is, by all accounts, a technological marvel, and rising demand for storage suggests that the biggest question mark hovering over it – energy cost – has yet to be an issue. Being able to store goods in sub-zero temperatures, with fully automated systems is a far more efficient method of storage than keeping things at warmer temperatures with human staff, or loading out a normal warehouse with dozens of freezer units. Sure it’s ambitious, and expensive, but thanks to Preferred Services, it’s proven as effective.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop.