Forklifts And Cold Storage - What You Need To Know
Every material handling operation has its difficulties, but cold storage and perishable logistics applications are especially challenging.  Opportunities for catastrophic product loss happen every moment of every day.

Temperature variations can cause unwanted discoloration, microbial growth, and spoiled product. But goods can’t stay in climate-controlled cold storage indefinitely. At some point, the product must be transferred quickly to or from a refrigerated vehicle for transport. Finding tough, reliable material handling equipment that can withstand constant temperature changes is a common problem in cold storage applications.

Success in the perishable goods industry requires both expertise and an eye for innovation. Businesses need to gain a competitive edge, but choosing the wrong cold storage warehouse equipment can be a million dollar mistake.

Cold Storage Is One of the Most Demanding Material Handling Applications

When a forklift or other material handling equipment moves from a cold to a warm environment (or vice versa), condensation can form on the machine’s metal surfaces – including under cover panels. This can also happen when the equipment transitions to and from areas with different amounts of humidity. When enough condensation builds up, it can drip into the machine’s connectors or other components. When the equipment returns to the freezing environment, the condensation can freeze and expand, damaging the electronic components.

Increased downtime and repair costs are just a few recurring problems that come from not using equipment designed for cold storage applications. Other issues include:

  • Cold temperatures reduce run time on electric forklifts using standard lead-acid batteries. Capacity can drop up to 35 percent. Lithium-ion batteries are not as severely affected.
  • Freezers and coolers cause traction problems. A siped forklift tire, or cold-prepped tires with a “walnut” surfacing are safer and reduce wear.
  • Even cold conditioned forklifts sweat, creating slippery conditions and increasing the potential for a tip over. When Toyota’s System of Active Stability (if equipped) senses instability, it engages a swing lock cylinder to compensate.
  • Most forklift controls aren’t designed to be used by an operator wearing thick gloves. Toyota’s ergonomic controls are adjustable and easy to use, even when wearing thick cold weather gear.

Why Toyota Forklifts are the Best Choice for Cold Storage

Reddy Ice, the largest manufacturer of commercial ice in the United States…uses Toyota forklifts in their 68-location fleet. Toyota forklifts come standard with IP65-rated wire connections, and the AC motor and controllers produce less heat, further reducing the risk of condensation seeping into components.

With Toyota’s cold conditioning package, forklifts can used for up to 30 minutes in frozen temperatures down to -4°F (-20°C). The package also protects the against condensation with additional grease fittings, an enclosed drive motor, rust inhibitor, stainless steel linkage pins, freezer oil (lightweight oil), tilt cylinder boots, and heaters.


Dreisbach and Cool Port Oakland

When leading cold supply chain logistics provider Dreisbach needed material handling equipment for their new facility at Cool Port Oakland, they chose Total Industries as their partner.

Our goal was to build a state-of-the-art facility. Having the best of everything, in both quality and efficiency, was tremendously important.  TMH helped us achieve all our goals by thoroughly analyzing our application: going over our parameters with regard to weight, temperature, heights to reach and aisle dimensions. Their team helped us navigate many hurdles as we designed this fleet for a unique facility.
— Russell Chaplan, Executive Director at Dreisbach Enterprises.

Dreisbach’s goals included:

  • Setting a new industry standard for speed and efficiency while ensuring the highest standards of food safety
  • Reducing import/export costs for Dreisbach customers
  • Minimizing their environmental impact
  • Create a robust fleet of material handling equipment including cold storage forklifts

Cold chain distribution in California is a competitive, highly-regulated business. After a thorough analysis of Dreisbach’s challenges and goals, they decided on an all-lithium fleet.

“Once we realized the benefit of using lithium-ion batteries for the entire facility, the decision was easy. The challenge for us, and other companies in our industry, is implementing this new technology. TMH was instrumental in ensuring all aspects of our fleet work together and function efficiently,” said Chaplan.

Learn more about Dresibach and The Oakland Opportunity 
Download the Cool Port Case Study

TMH offers a variety of products and services to optimize any cold storage material-handling operation including electric forklifts, sweeper-scrubbers and automated storage solutions. For more information, contact us online or by phone:

East Bay – Livermore (510) 675-0500
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091

Further Reading
Material Handling Equipment for Freezer and Food Storage (Toyota’s website) 
Reddy Ice Case Study 
Lithium Ion Forklift Batteries – What You Need to Know
What to Expect When You Convert from Lead-Acid to Lithium-Ion Forklift Batteries