From perishables to pharmaceuticals, supply chains live and die by their cold storage capabilities. We’ve looked into our crystal balls and found that tomorrow’s logistics networks will necessitate space-conscious cold storage.
Founded in 1924, Montel is a company specializing in the design and manufacture of high-density mobile storage systems for a multitude of markets, including libraries, museums, industrial warehousing, education, healthcare, public safety, military, sports, and indoor vertical farming.
According to Montel, cold storage facilities are virtually impervious to market elasticity. Everyone always needs access to the perishable goods that comprise the bulk of cold storage capacity, such as meat, produce, and medicine, so growth projections parallel population fluctuations, usually an easy number to track.
Eventually, however, that demand for refrigerated warehouses is going to butt up against the available supply.
And while some cold storage investors scramble to expand their footprint across multiple locations or expansions, the businesses that will differentiate themselves will be the ones who invest in maximizing their existing cold storage capacity from the inside out. As of 2022, total US cold storage real estate hovered around 225 million square feet, which comprises about 3.7 billion cubic feet of gross capacity. That tells us that so many cold storage businesses understand the power of fitting as much as possible in as little space as possible.
They will not only reclaim wasted storage space but tightly optimize their energy expenses, by far the single meatiest operational expense in the industry.
While the anomaly of COVID disrupted supply chains, complicated a tight labor market, and spooked consumers, thus throwing cold storage value into disarray, the industry has not only adjusted but exceeded pre-COVID demand thanks to drivers like the popularity of purchasing refrigerated goods online.
When consumer habits demand cold storage near city centers, the competition heats up for salable land. But as high as the speculative cold storage real estate market might reach, breaking ground is another animal entirely, and for many businesses, the capex for such an endeavor in such a hot real estate market is simply too much.
For those businesses, an affordable and advantageous alternative is retrofitting their extant facilities. Maybe that looks like upgrades to insulation or preserving the envelope, but it could just as easily include investments in mobile racking for cold storage.
Other indicators point us in that direction. Many cold storage facilities are moving away from traditional forklifts to those with hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells generate less heat, ideal for a cold storage environment, and they don’t require dedicated space for refueling or charging like combustion or battery-powered vehicles do—up to 60 percent less space overall. What that tells us is that saving space is front of mind in aspects not directly related to vacancy.
Mobile cold storage
The truth is, cold storage long ago took notice of how mobile storage technology allows for higher revenue and greater versatility without exorbitant capex investments relative to the trevails of real estate–hunting competition. These days, however, and in the days to come, mobile cold storage is going to be an essential safeguard against overspending and retaining value as costs for refrigerated warehouses continue to climb.