Be it dairy products, fish, meat, ready meals, vegetables or desserts, the majority of our food is sold refrigerated or frozen. And for good reason too: the low temperatures prevent the formation of bacteria, thus extending the shelf life of the products. Important nutrients such as vitamins can also be preserved for a longer period, while our range of refrigerated and frozen foods allows for a more varied diet independent of regional and seasonal restrictions. As a result average consumption across the globe is growing with each passing year.
To guarantee the quality and shelf life of refrigerated and frozen foods, a continuous cold chain is essential. This starts during production, and continues throughout storage, transport and sale until the product reaches the end consumer. In order to sell their goods safely, quickly and reliably, many manufacturers rely on specialist logistics service providers such as Frigologo GmbH. The company based in Seekirchen, Austria, is one of the largest complete service providers of temperature-controlled food logistics in central and eastern Europe. With a comprehensive network across several sites, Frigologo offers its customers national and international transport, warehousing, picking, cross-docking and value-added services. Founded in 1991, the company achieved a turnover of approx. 55 million euros in 2014 and employs roughly 265 members of staff.
In January 2015, Frigologo opened a new logistics centre in Sattledt, Upper Austria. The site is located directly on the Voralpenkreuz motorway intersection and is primarily used as a platform for the west-east route. Finished and packaged products - deep-frozen goods, fresh milk, biscuits and chocolate, as well as unrefrigerated foods - destined for retail customers are stored in four temperature zones covering a total area of 10,300 square metres. “We specialise mainly in commercial business,” explains Managing Director Günther Kisslinger. “We function as the link between manufacturers and retailers. We are responsible for the storage of goods, the acceptance and picking of orders as well as prompt delivery – all with a continuous, monitored and documented cold chain.”
Sustainability is of the utmost importance at Frigologo. The company has an ultra-modern HGV fleet and all vehicles are certified to the Euro 6 emission standard. Numerous measures for improving energy efficiency are in place at the logistics centre in Sattledt, for example a photovoltaic system and low-energy LED lighting. “Temperature-controlled logistics is a very energy-intensive business,” stresses Kisslinger. “It is therefore important to fully exploit any potential for savings.” Frigologo relies on e-mobility for its internal flow of materials, and the logistics service provider uses more than 100 battery-powered forklift trucks from manufacturers Jungheinrich and Crown.
Temperatures are lowest in the 2,000 square metre deep-freeze area, falling as low as -24 degrees Celsius. These cold temperatures present huge challenges for the fleet of forklift trucks, in particular due to the effect of the extreme conditions on the traction batteries. The electrolyte inside the battery becomes more viscous, the chemical processes slow down and performance drops considerably. This also has a noticeable impact on the charging process - if the battery temperature is too low, the quality of the charge is reduced and in turn the availability of the forklift truck system. “For this reason, we charge the forklift trucks used in the deep-freeze zone in a much warmer preparation area,” explains Helmut Habersatter, Operations Manager at Frigologo. “However, the temperature difference must not be too great, otherwise the vehicle and battery may become damaged due to freezing and condensation build-up.” The logistics company operates 24/7, thus relying on the high availability of its forklift trucks.
In order to charge the traction batteries safely, reliably and efficiently even under these conditions, Frigologo uses innovative technology from Fronius. With the battery charging systems from the new Selectiva generation, the Pettenbach-based technology leader from Austria has developed a solution that guarantees an optimum charging process under any conditions. “Our devices have a ‘temperature-controlled charging’ function for use at low ambient temperatures,” explains Leopold Grammerstätter, Technical Consultant for battery charging systems at Fronius. “The battery charging system records the temperature inside the battery and adapts the final charging voltage accordingly.” This improves performance and extends the service life. Alternatively, the operator can simply adapt the charging characteristic on the device itself.
Fronius devices are also installed in the other temperature zones – a total of 45 units are in operation at the logistics centre. These offer considerable benefits compared to other technologies: “Our new Ri charging process not only adapts according to the temperature, but also according to the age and state of charge of the battery,” explains Grammerstätter. “This minimises overcharging, thereby reducing energy consumption and protecting the battery.” In the case of Frigologo, Fronius experts say that the expensive batteries can be used for an average of one year longer than with conventional charging technology, considerably reducing operating costs for the logistics service provider.
The forklift trucks, batteries and battery charging systems are numbered for straightforward assignment, helping employees to avoid errors. In order to operate a shift system without interruptions, Frigologo uses back-up batteries. Thanks to the intuitive operation of the Selectiva devices, changing the battery could not be easier. The forklift truck driver only needs to connect the charging plug - all the parameters are set automatically. The state of charge of the battery can be seen at a glance on the display, and an external start/stop function prevents an oxyhydrogen explosion from occurring when disconnecting the plug, even if an employee forgets to end the charging process first. The compact design makes the system visually appealing and saves valuable space.
Frigologo is extremely satisfied with the Fronius devices. “They have been running smoothly ever since we opened our logistics centre here and our fleet of forklift trucks is always ready to use,” enthuses Operations Manager Habersatter. Should any difficulties nevertheless occur, the Fronius experts are only a few kilometres away in Pettenbach, which is another major advantage for the company. “The benefits of Fronius technology are also evident from our energy consumption,” explains Günther Kisslinger. “It is helping us to achieve our ambitious sustainability goals.” He goes on to add that he would opt for Fronius every time: “The reliability of the devices under the most extreme conditions coupled with straightforward operation is extremely impressive.”