Logistics companies continue to shoulder the ongoing burden of labor shortages for warehouse employees and truck drivers. These costs include the high turn-over rate, recruiting and training new employees, increasing demand for higher wages, testing new compensation package options, and lost productivity and competitiveness. Factors driving this challenge include the dramatic growth of e-commerce, a number of financial, demographic, and educational factors according to the World Bank, and low unemployment across all sectors. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics the US has less than one unemployed person for every job opening, and a recent report from the commercial real estate firm CBRE estimated over 450,000 new warehouse and distribution workers were needed in 2018-2019.
There is not a silver bullet to solve this problem. Regardless of how we address this challenge (automation, wage hikes, employee perks, etc.) all solutions do have one thing in common: they will cost money in an industry with already low profit margins. But what if other operating costs could be reduced to help fund these solutions and to maintain higher profit margins? In many warehouses the second largest operating cost behind labor is energy, and many cold storage warehouse operators have already added common efficiency technologies like LED lighting, variable speed motors on refrigeration equipment, and automated doors to lower energy costs. How do we mine more energy savings? The answer is the most impactful energy cost reduction technology in the cold chain, Thermal Energy Storage (TES). TES systems often reduce energy costs 20 to 35 percent or more while safely maintaining temperatures inside the freezers. These energy savings could go a long way in helping attract and retain the desperately needed work force in logistics.
TES systems are quickly and easily installed inside freezers of all sizes and can make an immediate impact on energy use and costs. The two-component systems consist of intelligent controls that optimize refrigeration run time and temperature requirements and Phase Change Material (PCM) that absorbs up to 85% of heat infiltration inside the room. The facility's existing refrigeration system freezes the PCM and then refrigeration be staged down for extended periods of time (up to 13 hours per day) while the PCM maintains stable temperatures. These periods without active refrigeration can be aligned with periods of the day when energy is most expensive and to shift more run time to hours with lower ambient temperatures which are much more efficient. The intelligent controls monitor multiple temperature variables, capture equipment status, and consider energy rate structures to make real-time decisions that prioritize food quality while reducing overall consumption and maximizing energy saving.
Logistics companies must look to outside industries to find the amount of talent it needs but look internally to fund the solutions. Uncovering nuggets of profit to fund labor shortage solutions is now much easier with Thermal Energy Storage.