Overcoming the Challenges of Food and Beverage Warehouses with Automation

Along with widespread warehousing concerns like inventory management and supply chain efficiency, warehouses in the food and beverage sector face their own set of challenges.

Many of these challenges can be overcome with automated solutions.

We’ll share the top challenges that the food warehousing industry faces, and the automated solutions that can help — including our climate-controlled storage systems at Modula.

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Vertical Lift Module

5 Challenges in the Food and Beverage Warehousing Industry [+ Solutions]

F&B warehouses face many of the same challenges that warehouses across industries face, along with a few that are industry-specific.

1. Warehouse Capacity

Grocery eCommerce in the United States experienced a drastic uptick in demand after the worldwide pandemic, generating a whopping $100.7 billion in 2021 alone — an increase of around $20 billion, compared to 2020.

To meet this demand, your F&B company must quickly expand product lines and SKUs to include more choices. As a result, your warehouse can reach maximum capacity at a faster rate.

To optimize your warehouse space to accommodate more inventory:

  • Utilize automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) such as vertical lift modules or horizontal carousels
  • Implement just-in-time inventory management to ensure you are only stocking up on inventory as needed
  • Identify underutilized space. For example, dock areas are often used for loading and unloading inventory, but you can also use them for temporary storage

2. Supply Chain Disruptions and Rising Costs

Supply chain disruptions can be caused by a variety of factors, such as natural disasters or labor strikes.

These disruptions can impact the availability and cost of raw materials, transportation and labor, leading to delays and increased costs.

In the food and beverage industry, supply chain disruptions can also impact product safety and quality, as perishable goods may spoil or become contaminated if they are not transported and stored correctly.

In addition, rising costs can present a significant challenge for food and beverage warehousing companies. The industry is subject to fluctuating prices for raw materials, labor, energy and transportation.

These rising costs can make it difficult for you to maintain your profit margins while still providing high levels of service to your customers.

To address the challenges of supply chain disruptions and rising costs in your warehouse:

  • Diversify suppliers: You can reduce reliance on a single supplier by diversifying your supply chain. This can help minimize the impact of supply chain disruptions caused by weather events, labor strikes, or other unforeseen circumstances
  • Leverage automation and robotics: Automation and robotics, including ASRS, can help increase efficiency, reduce labor costs, and improve inventory accuracy. ASRS can automatically retrieve and transport products to the picking station, reducing the need for manual labor and minimizing the risk of errors or delays.
  • Utilize a Warehouse Management System (WMS): A WMS can help you optimize your logistics and transportation operations by providing real-time inventory data, optimizing product placement, and improving order-picking processes. This can help reduce transportation costs by consolidating shipments, improving delivery schedules, and reducing the amount of product handling required.

3. Food Safety Regulations

The food industry is highly regulated to ensure that food products are safe for consumption. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in severe consequences, such as product recalls, fines and damage to your company’s reputation.

Food safety regulations are put in place to ensure that food products are free from contamination and meet certain quality standards.

This includes regulations around food labeling, packaging, storage, handling and distribution.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 6 Americans get sick from food or beverage contamination every year.

As consumers become increasingly concerned about the safety and quality of the food they consume, complying with food safety regulations becomes a matter of trust and reputation for your F&B company.

To prevent food contamination in your warehouse:

  • Utilize storage solutions with controlled environments to help you manage specific temperature and humidity levels, reducing the risk of spoilage
  • Conduct regular inspections of your warehouse to identify potential sources of contamination (such as rodents and other pests)
  • Train employees properly to ensure that all employees are aware of food safety regulations, understand their roles in maintaining compliance, and are equipped with the knowledge and skills to identify and prevent potential safety hazards
An image of a warehouse operator inspecting inventory
Inspect your warehouse for signs of infestation to prevent food contamination

4. Employee Safety

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4.8 recorded injuries for every 100 full-time workers in warehousing and storage in 2019.

Workplace accidents, including falls, slips, getting caught in equipment, and being struck by an object can lead to serious injuries.

To improve employee safety within your warehouse:

  • Leverage automated storage solutions that automatically transport goods to your warehouse employees
  • Provide your warehouse employees with personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hard hats, safety goggles and gloves to protect them from potential hazards
  • Require your employees to undergo warehouse equipment training

5. Inventory Management

Your F&B warehouse needs to store perishable food items and beverages that often have a limited shelf life.

While climate-controlled storage solutions can help prevent goods from being spoiled too soon, a reliable warehouse system is also needed to forecast demands and inventory levels.

To better manage your inventory:

  • Implement an inventory management software that provides accurate data into your warehouse inventory levels, item movement and records, and unique identifiers
  • Conduct regular inventory audits to identify excess inventory, slow-moving items, obsolete products and potential discrepancies in inventory records (such as misplaced or lost inventory)
  • Anticipate changes in customer demand using forecasting tools and adjust inventory levels
An image of a warehouse operator using Modula's warehouse management system
Get accurate data on your inventory levels when you implement a WMS

Key Benefits of Automating a Food and Beverage Warehouse

From maximizing your existing warehouse space to preventing spoiled products, here are five reasons why warehouse automation is key to streamlining operations within your F&B warehouse.

1. Optimize Warehouse Space

Warehouse space is at a premium. In 2021, it costs up to $8 per square foot in the United States.

When you utilize vertical storage solutions in your F&B warehouse, you can maximize your facility’s available ceiling height.

Pro tip: Read our guide on warehouse organization ideas for more space saving tricks.

2. Prevent Food Spoilage

Part of an F&B warehouse’s day-to-day challenges is product quality.

With warehouse automation, you can prevent food spoilage by managing environmental factors such as temperature and humidity.

Controlled environment storage solutions utilize temperature controls and innovations like thermal insulation to maintain optimal storage conditions for perishable products.

3. Improve Inventory Management

Before you can implement the first in, first out (FIFO) method to ensure quality control, you need to have a clear overview of your inventory.

From identifying fast-moving items before they run out of stock to delivering older goods before they spoil, inventory management solutions provide you with accurate data regarding inventory records, movement and stock levels in real time.

Check out how our Modula automated solutions can improve your warehouse space:

MODULA AUTOMATED SOLUTIONS: How to Improve your Warehouse Space Utilization

Modula Solutions to Automate Your Food and Beverage Warehouse

An industry leader offering advanced storage solutions and warehouse management systems, our next-level technologies at Modula reflect our dedication to innovation, allowing us to provide excellent value to our customers around the globe.

1. Modula Vertical Lift Modules

If you’re looking for automated storage solutions that take up a minimum footprint in your warehouse, our Modula vertical lift modules (VLMs) are the solution you need.

From storing goods in a safe and secure environment to eliminating the need for your warehouse operators to reach high and low areas, our VLMs have a multitude of benefits.

Available in three models, our VLMs are vertical storage towers that range from 10 feet to 52’10 feet tall.

Our three VLM models include: 

  • Modula Lift: Our most popular vertical lift module. Ideal for heavy loads of up to 2,200 lbs, while providing a throughput of up to 130 trays per hour.
  • Modula Slim: For warehouses with a smaller footprint, the Modula Slim only takes up 32.29 square feet of floor space.
  • Modula OnePick: A fully automated storage solution that combines the strengths of a robotic system and the benefits of the Modula Lift, without the need for human intervention.

2. Modula Horizontal Carousel 

For high-speed picking operations where the ceiling height is low, opt for our Modula horizontal carousel (HC).

Boasting flexibility and a compact structure, Modula HC fits perfectly in warehouse areas where space is limited.

Modula HC allows you to:

  • Increase your productivity with picking rates of up to 550 lines per hour
  • Improve picking accuracy by up to 99% with simple visual picking aids
  • Provide the safest working environment for your warehouse operators by eliminating warehouse travel time and reducing physical strain
  • Monitor and document all picking operations
  • Adjust shelf spacing and reconfigure pods to meet seasonal demands

3. Controlled Environment Storage Solutions

Safely store food and beverage products that are subject to temperature variations with Modula’s controlled environment storage solutions. Our solutions help protect your inventory from temperature variations and contaminants, meeting industry standards and regulations.

Modula Climate Control

Modula Climate Control is equipped with a refrigeration system and thermal insulation that maintains your inventory at the required temperature and humidity.

Modula Climate Control allows you to:

  • Control temperature from +2°C to +25°C (+35 °F to +77°F)
  • Control relative humidity ≥ 5%
  • Easily access stored inventory, thanks to the thermal break panel that can be independently opened outwards

Modula Clean Room

Ideal for F&B companies and warehouses that store perishable goods, Modula Clean Room protects food and drinks from contaminants such as dust particles, dirt and germs.

From dry goods such as dried pasta and flour to perishable items like dairy products, the Modula Clean Room storage system complies with ISO 14644 standards and meets class 7 and 8 requirements.

Our Modula Clean Room solution allows you to:

  • Minimize air particles within your storage room to prevent food spoilage
  • Obtain easy access through dual openings
  • Gain access to clean room classifications ranging from 6 to 8
  • Comply with ISO 14644-1 standard
  • Reduce exposure to contaminants, including dust, dirt, germs and bacteria
  • Implement the same advanced technology to all Modula lift modules

4. Modula Warehouse Management System

Gain complete inventory visibility with Modula’s intelligent and advanced software system.

The Modula Warehouse Management System (WMS) is a complete inventory management software, built to operate Modula’s ASRS.

If you have a traditional warehouse with manual storage solutions, it can also act as a stand-alone software.

Our Modula WMS allows you to:

  • Manage and track individual goods and monitor stock levels in real time
  • Track orders, from processing to delivery
  • Set access levels and permissions for your warehouse operators and track their activity
  • Monitor the performance of your warehouse operators
  • Identify and resolve system errors, analyze statistics and generate reports
  • Connect and share data with other software and systems, thanks to data entry or file import/export

How Modula’s Automated Storage Solutions Have Helped Leading Food and Beverage Companies Optimize Warehouse Operations

Many leading companies worldwide have adopted Modula automated storage solutions to streamline their operations.

These companies use these solutions both to serve production lines and to store components and spare parts for the maintenance department.

As a result, they have effectively reduced the time spent searching for and transporting goods, while optimizing space utilization and reducing the physical effort required by operators.

Some of the examples include:

  • Vonpar Refrescos, a Coca-Cola bottler in South America, uses 13-foot-wide trays in their VLMs to store bulky parts required for format changes.
  • Sidel uses a pair of Modula units to serve packaging machines and filling lines for drinks, storing replacement parts for machines or finished products.
  • Barilla, in its Parma plant, uses external bays in vertical storage solutions to hold bulky dies used to cut pasta, employing robots, manipulator arms, and lifting devices to handle dies that can weigh up to 440 lbs.
  • Grissin Bon, Centro Carni di Padova, and Pane Morato use the same type of vertical storage solution to stock spare parts needed to maintain production plants.
  • Syngenta Seeds, located in the state of Washington, purchased two VLMs to store seed samples and support lab operations in a controlled climate environment, providing significant space savings and reporting features to track crop information.
  • Inalca (Cremonini Group) purchased three Modula units, one of which is used in the cold storage area, thanks to Modula’s ability to operate at temperatures as low as 32°F.
  • Aurora Organic Dairy, a dairy farming and milk bottling operation, purchased four Modula units for its facilities in Missouri and Colorado. Two Modula Lift ML75D units are used to store maintenance parts for processing equipment, while the other two units are employed in the sample testing area in a temperature-controlled environment
  • Spendrups, one of the largest beer producers in Sweden, uses a Modula VLM to store low-movement products as well as inventories of finished products such as boxes of beer and wine.
  • Jin Ding, a Taiwanese food company, has eliminated picking errors and speeded preparation of orders. As Jin Ding’s warehouse manager, Jarry Liu, says, “Now three or four workers can do the same job that previously would have required eight to 10 workers. Modula units have dramatically improved our work efficiency while eliminating picking errors.”

Another popular application of Modula VLMs in the food & beverage industry is label storage.

With Modula’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) software and its user-friendly Copilot operator console, your operator can retrieve inventory with a single click and set up labels as needed during production.

The famous chocolate company Venchi, as well as Colli del Soligo, Cantine Mezzacorona and Contri wineries, have at least one Modula unit deployed to store and track all their labels.

The same process has been adopted by several vinegar and olive oil producers, including Acetificio Ortalli, Acetaia Leonardi, and Bunge.

A Closer Look at Modula Case Studies in the Food and Beverage Industry

From winemakers to online groceries, our automated storage solutions help food and beverage companies ensure their inventory and employees are safe while maximizing floor space and achieving accurate order picking.

Get a glimpse of how our solutions have helped two food and beverage companies:

1. Mezzacorona Group

Mezzacorona Group is a cooperative of 1,600 winemakers, located in the northern Italian province of Trentino. The company bottles wines for six regional brands.

The challenge:

Mezzacorona Group needed a better solution to store and handle their wine labels that were deteriorating. Along with this issue, their warehouse operators were experiencing picking issues, due to the lack of a warehouse inventory system.

In addition, the rolls of wine labels were too heavy, making it difficult for operators to transport the labels over to the production line.

The solution:

Mezzacorona installed two Modula vertical lift modules (VLMs).

Thanks to these modules, Mezzacorona was able to save warehouse space, protect their wine labels from deterioration, speed up product retrieval and ease the physical burden on warehouse operators.

2. Tulips

Tulips is the first Italian e-grocery player to guarantee delivery within three hours of ordering.

The challenge:

Tulips had to meet growing customer demand for quick home delivery and in-store pick-up.

The company needed reliable automated solutions to help them achieve accurate order picking, while optimizing their warehouse space and reducing the need for manual labor.

The solution:

To help meet consumer demand, Tulips installed six Modula MC 50 D Lifts. The vertical solutions maximized their warehouse space, decreased warehouse travel time and improved the order fulfillment process.

At Modula, we help you reimagine your warehouse operations with our automated storage and retrieval systems and warehouse management solutions.

Get in touch with our team to request a warehouse audit and find out how our solutions can work for you.

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