Safety and compliance add complexity to warehousing fresh and temperature-sensitive food
Proper handling and regulatory compliance for food and beverage is paramount throughout the cold chain, including within the warehouse. Interest in multi-client warehousing is growing as companies look to expand their footprint and move inventory closer to consumers.
Temperature compliance is paramount for both the quality of product and for food safety precautions. Penske Logistics has a team of subject matter experts leading our Food Safety Program to ensure compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act as well as meeting third-party GFSI Food Safety Audits with high marks.
"When you're talking about perishable food, getting product closer to the consumer is always beneficial," said Don Klug, vice president of distribution center management at Penske Logistics.
However, even smaller footprints within food-grade facilities require careful attention to detail. According to the Annual 2022 Third-Party Logistics Study, the cold chain requires a certain level of sophistication from both shippers and logistics providers, and several unique challenges within the cold chain require tracking and special designs.
Tracking and Tracing
Tracking is used in several areas, including the monitoring of temperatures as well as the lot control, expiration dates, etc., said Don Klug.
Penske utilizes temperature tracking in different zones throughout the warehouse. Klug said most refrigerated facilities are multi-temperature, which include refrigerated, frozen and air conditioned or ambient temperature spaces.
"Devices, which some look like small hockey pucks, track and monitor the high and low temperatures. We have systems and people monitoring it all the time and making sure we have excellent knowledge of what is going on to maintain the temperature requirements of our customers," Klug said. "We utilize the same technology in our multi-temperature reefer trailers. If there is a driver on the road and something happens to the unit’s refrigeration, we can alert them and get them to a Penske shop to get it fixed."
Temperature tracking is as essential as inventory accuracy. When it comes to food and ensuring safety requirements are met and spoilage is mitigated, the warehouse management system WMS must be able to manage both. With systemic monitoring and controls, regulatory compliance of temperature monitoring for food safety controls effectively eliminates risk of temperature abuse, or not storing foods at the proper temperature.
The WMS system tracks attributes which includes lot control, expiration dates, and other rules, such as shelf-life, FEFO (first-expired first-out) and/or FIFO (first-in first out). Klug said inventory accuracy is critical to the overall cold chain process.
"The customer provides the requirements, and we add it to the rule set within the WMS," Klug said. "We have to be cognizant of lot control and expiration dates when we’re working with food and beverage products."
Food and beverages must be stored in a food-grade building, which has several features not found in a standard warehouse. All ceiling lights must be shatterproof or have protection to catch any glass or debris if a bulb breaks. Plus, any warehouse area with temperatures below 32 degrees requires heat within the floor or else damage will occur, Klug said.
The exclusion of pests, such as rodents and birds, is essential within the food and beverage industry. There must be 12-18 inches of gravel around the building in a food-grade warehouse to help prevent pests or rodents from entering the space. Additionally, nothing should be stored directly against the walls on the inside of the building, eliminating spaces that may be attractive to rodents.
Additionally, dock plates have brushes to minimize gaps. "The dock door will have a dock shelter mounted on the concrete," Klug said. "When a truck backs in, it seals the truck to the opening, so no light comes through, to keep birds and rodents out."
A robust Food Safety Plan also must take into consideration all working operations to always maintain sanitary conditions of the facility. This includes the layout of traffic patterns for associates, adequate handwashing and associate facilities, adequate drainage, and designated storage areas for sanitation supplies and MHE equipment.
Penske maintains several food safety audit certifications, including the BRCGS Global Food Safety Standard. "To get BRC certified, you have to follow standard operating procedures and do testing to make sure the building meets all of the requirements," Klug said.
Cold Chain Growth
The 2022 Annual Third-Party Logistics Study found that opportunities exist within the cold chain, and 91% of shippers and 100% of 3PLs said they expect demand for cold chain capacity to increase over the next three years. Both shippers (70%) and 3PLs (52%) said COVID-19 accelerated their growth plans, increasing their need for more cold chain capacity.
As a result, 70% of shippers said they expect to grow their cold chain capabilities and talent over the next three years, while 50% said they plan to outsource more of their cold chain capabilities. About 90% of 3PLs said they plan to expand their cold chain capabilities and service offerings.
Penske’s Food Safety Program is designed to maintain all regulatory requirements, a Global Food Safety Initiative food safety audit program, along with any specific quality requirements to meet the needs of our customers. Penske actively participates in certifying leaders with the FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Food as a tool to continuously cultivate and grow our Food Safety Culture. With Penske's dedicated Food Safety Leadership, our locations are monitored through a rigid internal auditing process for food safety that strives for continuous improvements to maintain a "best in class" food safety program.
To learn more about how Penske can assist with multiclient warehousing within the cold chain and food and beverage industries, contact us today.