Gray & Adams, the UK’s leading supplier of temperature-controlled semi-trailers and rigid vehicle bodywork, has designed an automated loading pod, built inside a 15.6m refrigerated body, that holds 60 pallets at -22 degrees C. This innovation, coupled with a 44-pallet capacity double deck trailer, can be loaded in under seven minutes, automatically – a first for the UK.
This latest concept from Gray & Adams recently won the Innovation Award at this year’s Temperature Controlled Storage & Distribution (TCS&D) Awards with a design that fully automates the loading process. Despite this process having been used in manufacturing for many years, it is a completely new concept for the food industry.
Working in partnership with cold store integrity experts, NewCold Logistics, initially NewCold had no storage facility for products, meaning that trailers were often used to hold products whilst awaiting distribution. This process required running fridge engines, creating both carbon and noise.
Tom Cassells, Logistics Advisor at NewCold, was impressed with loading automation innovations in Germany and wanted to bring this to the UK, for use with double decks. However, most loading bays lack the space required to facilitate auto-loading equipment.
The, often lengthy, process of loading and unloading refrigerated vehicles not only costs time and money but can also affect the quality of refrigerated produce which can deteriorate if exposed to higher temperatures. The challenge to Gray & Adams was then to engineer a solution to facilitate auto-loading operations in a temperature-controlled environment to ensure best quality produce and optimised efficiency with reduced loading times.
Known as ‘The Pod’, this innovation not only ensures cold chain integrity, but also ensures a fully automated system from factory to store, working in conjunction with auto loading fix double deck semi trailers and including satellite based remote monitoring, a full buffer protection installation frame with an auto loading door and 3 Carrier TRS Iceland refrigeration units.
The Pod not only ensures full and secure cold chain integrity but also is more environmentally friendly because it uses electric refrigeration to hold the product at temperature until loading is required, offering flexibility without compromising on quality.
Having been integral to Gray & Adams success in winning the Innovation Award, as well as winning the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the industry, Tom Cassells, praised the Gray & Adams team on bringing his vision to life, saying,
“Having worked with Gray & Adams on our fleet over the last few years, we knew that their engineering expertise and innovative approach would be the perfect fit for our auto loading pod ambitions. It’s transportable, can be built in either outdoor or indoor spaces and has an impressive effect on loading times and efficiencies, as well as ensuring the quality of the produce. It’s a first for the UK and we couldn’t be more proud of the result.”
With innovation as one of their key business principals that both Gray & Adams and NewCold share, innovation through sustainability isn’t just a clever concept, but crucial for both businesses to stay on top of their game. The system both introduces new technologies to the UK and also takes the human element out of loading, removing long-term costs and dealing with the labour shortages currently facing the industry.
Andrew Brown, Sales Director (Doncaster) at Gray & Adams commented, “With the advance of artificial intelligence and the uncertainties of Brexit, we already face a major shortage of warehouse staff in the industry. Also, the hostile environment of a cold store is not appealing to everyone. We apply our ever-expanding industry knowledge and engineering expertise to ensure we provide innovation that adds value to our customer experience and helps them to drive their business forward. We’re excited to see what comes next and look forward to keeping innovation, sustainability and quality at the forefront of our service.”