Frozen food company McCain Foods Australia is preparing to make the shift to robotic, temperature-controlled storage with its upcoming move to a new fully-automated highbay cold storage facility in Melbourne.

The company, which makes frozen potato products, vegetables, dinners, and pizza for the retail and foodservice sectors, describes the facility as the first of its kind in Australia.


The warehouse will feature unmanned stacker cranes, conveyors and automated truck unloading systems, which together will handle more than 11,000 pallet movements per day.


McCain Foods has signed a ten-year contract with NewCold, a cold storage provider that is new to Australia, which is constructing the facility in Truganina, Melbourne.


The facility's integrated system combines automated pallet handling systems, as well as in-house warehouse and control software developed by NewCold's Dutch parent.


“The storage and handling of McCain’s frozen products in the new automated facility will give us greater efficiency, room to grow, a more stable temperature regime and highly accurate stock control,” McCain Foods ANZ supply chain director, Taso Kourou said.


“The pallets are not handled by forklifts or people. They are received though an automatic conveyor system and put into the freezer by unmanned cranes.


“When a customer order comes through and the product is required, the cranes go to the correct location, pick the pallet and bring it to the conveyor which takes it to dispatch.”


Agility to respond to market growth will be another big benefit, Kourou said.


“Because of the automation, we can more quickly respond to customer orders. And as the market grows, we can grow by holding more stock in that facility."


Safety is another novel feature in the new facility, according to Kourou. The freezer uses new technology that results in very low oxygen levels, and in turn a very low fire risk. Because it's so hard for fires to ignite under these conditions, he said, there's no requirement for a sprinkler system.


The facility also offers strong sustainability advantages, Kourou said, because the design and building materials of the freezer allow it to use less energy to maintain low temperatures than traditional facilities.


McCain Food’s regional president for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India & China, Louis Wolthers, said: “From a sustainability perspective, through the use of the warehouses’ highly controlled in-and-outflows combined with efficient cooling equipment, energy usage per pallet stored is up to 50 per cent lower compared to a conventional storage option.”


Storage specialist Dematic has equipped the new facility with ColbyRack high bay racking capable of housing 100,000 to 106,000 pallets.


McCain will also have access to continuous feedback on performance, service and efficiency, allowing for continuous improvement through its supply and delivery methods.


Local employees will be recruited to staff the facility, with extensive skills and technology training for employees to ensure they can manage the facility at maximum efficiency.


McCain Foods plans to be storing all of its frozen products at the automated facility by July 2017.


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