May 1, 2009 12:00 PM
Food warehouse saves big with strip curtains
The Southern California facility of Chef's Warehouse, located in the City of Industry, made some modifications that resulted in significant operational efficiencies. It placed strip doors on both ends of the facility's almost 1,500-square-foot freezer compartment, and on the doors to its 38,000 square feet of temperature-controlled storage space.
The 88,000-square-foot warehouse supplies gourmet meats and other foods to customers throughout California and Nevada, including most of the high-end restaurants in the region and the casinos in Las Vegas.
Within a few days of installation of the ArmorBond strip doors, the average temperature in the meat freezer dropped from 29.4° to 26.7°F, with no change in the set temperature on the thermostat. A similar temperature drop occurred in the temperature-controlled storage area.
ArmorBond doors are designed and manufactured by Simplex Isolation Systems in nearby Fontana.
“That's a huge savings in energy for Chef's Warehouse,” said Vince Iulianello, executive general manager of the company's City of Industry facility.
Iulianello points to additional savings on the front end. He originally contemplated installing automatic freezer doors on both ends of the freezer room at a cost of $15,000. The entire package of ArmorBond strip doors, two strip doors on either end, came in for a price tag of $4,000.
Several weeks after installation, an auditor from Southern California Edison, the local electrical utility, came through the warehouse and spotted the strip doors. After a few calculations, the auditor told Iulianello that the installation qualified for a rebate equal to more than 25% of the cost of the strip doors.
“That was an added bonus,” said Iulianello.
Another benefit is the saved traffic time through the strip doors.
“The Simplex ArmorBond strip doors are designed to allow easy two-way access from not only pedestrians, but from heavy pallet jack and forklift traffic,” said Iulianello.
In doing his research with a door specialist, Iulianello learned that on average, automatic freezer doors take four seconds to open, and then another four seconds to close.
“During that time, cold air is flowing out of the freezer room,” Iulianello said. “However, strip doors, which are made of wide strips of vinyl that hang like a curtain, only open far enough to allow for the traffic, then immediately fall back into place.”
“Four seconds doesn't sound like much time,” added David Casas, dispatch manager at Chef's Warehouse, “but when we're loading trucks at peak times, four seconds is forever.”
Casas said that every once in a while a forklift driver misjudges the timing and slams into the doors.
“Driver, forklift, and door are all subject to damage,” he said. “With ArmorBond strip doors that problem is eliminated.”
Chef's Warehouse moved into the City of Industry warehouse three years ago. The facility had been previously used for warehousing produce, so the refrigeration systems and some strip doors were already in place. But even with upgrades to the refrigeration system, Iulianello was still seeing temperature readouts he didn't like.
To improve the overall efficiency of the cooler and freezer, plus reduce energy costs, he wanted to keep more of the cold air inside and warmer air outside. After evaluating all the factors with a door specialist, Iulianello decided to go with strip doors.
One of the reason he selected ArmorBond strip doors is that Simplex uses what is referred to as “virgin” vinyl.
This type of material uses no recycled ingredients, which helps the strips stay clear longer, especially in the harsh environment of the freezer,” said Duane McKinnon, president of Simplex.
“In a high traffic environment such as Chef's Warehouse, where pallet jack operators and forklift drivers are zooming around, the ability to see is imperative to avoiding accidents,” he said. “The virgin vinyl strips don't crack or discolor, and are less prone to curling, and curling strips quickly destroy the seal in a strip door.”
Simplex also uses a bonded bead designed for its ArmorBond strips where they mount into the patented one-piece extruded bracket. Rather than being bolted into place, which immediately creates a weakness in the vinyl, noted McKinnon, the strip pivots freely in the bracket, giving added life to the strip.
The one-piece mounting bracket also makes maintenance of the ArmorBond system easier, Iulianello said. Strip life can be extended by rotating the strips. The strips towards the middle of the door typically experience the most wear, while the strips on the end experience less wear.
Rotation requires only that strips be slid out of the bracket and then put back in a different sequence.
“Another safeguard against wear of the strips is their ribbed design,” McKinnon said. “Raised ribs allow for a seal, but also facilitate easy parting of the strips. Additionally, the wear on the strips from heavy traffic takes place on the ribbed surface as opposed to the strip. This feature allows the strips to last longer.”
The ArmorBond strip doors were mounted on both the inside and outside walls of each of the two entrances of the freezer, Iulianello said. The four inches between the inner and outer doors captures the ambient air and forms an insulator.
A further step taken to contain the greatest amount of cold air in the freezer room was to install the ArmorBond strip doors with 100% overlap of the strips.
The temperature in Chef's Warehouse freezer and temperature-controlled warehouse are monitored by an elaborate computer system. Temperatures in all rooms are recorded six times a day, twice on each shift, in order to verify consistency.
Iulianello said he anticipates installing a monitoring system that will alert the staff of fluctuations in temperature at any time.
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