As any produce distributor will tell you, handling perishable fruits is tricky business. To begin with, they have a short shelf life and are easily damaged.
Then there are the storage considerations. Perishable fruits require refrigerated storage, which is expensive, as well as proper air circulation to maintain freshness. Plus, adding storage capacity to accommodate growing volumes is no easy matter, since it must be done without compromising air flow or, in this high-turn business, product accessibility.
That was the challenge facing Ceres Fruit Growers, one of South Africa's largest distributors of apples and pears. The company found the additional storage it needed in the Poweracks mobile racking solution from U.K.-based Storax Solutions. Poweracks feature a superstructure of racks mounted on powered moving bases. The racks, which are moved by remote control, can be integrated with a warehouse management system.
By replacing static access aisles with moveable aisles, facilities can double their storage capacity within the same building footprint, according to Charleston, S.C.-based Flexspace, which is the North American distributor for Storax Solutions. Among other benefits, the racks provide unobstructed access to every product, which can boost efficiency and productivity while minimizing the number of forklift touches required.
The 10-bay-long Poweracks used in Ceres' DC each hold 2,780 pallets. With this solution, the produce distributor is able to move 60 pallets per hour on average.
The benefits don't end there. Using Poweracks in its produce distribution operation has also enabled Ceres to increase its practical storage capacity by 75 to 80 percent, according to Deon Schickerling, the company's electrical and refrigeration manager. Furthermore, because the racks allow for optimal air circulation, the company was able to raise its set-point temperature, which has reduced energy costs.
The racks have provided operating benefits as well, Schickerling says. "We have numerous aisles moving simultaneously, which provides not only full accessibility to each pallet location, but the speed we need in our high-turn environment."