A Seasoned Cold Storage Professional’s Perspective on Modern Cold Storage Design and Smarter Operations
Q & A with FlexCold’s Facilities Director, Curt Edmisten
Curt has had a distinguished career and decades of experience in cold storage facility management and construction. In his latest role at FlexCold, he is focusing on the impact and design of modern cold storage and continues to raise the bar on energy efficiency.
“We are constantly analyzing how we can reduce energy consumption. Whether it’s with our refrigeration, lighting, building size, or exploring green energy sources – energy is a cost center where our modern building approach is creating bottom line benefits,” Curt says.
Q. Could you tell us about yourself and your role at FlexCold?
In 1970, I was hired as a refrigeration plant engineer trainee at Merchants Terminal Corporation, later referred to as MTC Logistics. I moved up the ranks to Shift Engineer, Supervisor, and eventually became Director of Engineering managing five different facilities. At that point, leadership approached me to oversee construction of a new facility. Not my area of expertise, so I picked up every book I could find on construction and oversaw the construction of two greenfield sites in the Mid-Atlantic region and our first cold storage warehouse outside of that region in Mobile, Alabama.
It was during the planning and design of the Mobile, Alabama, location that I became familiar with FLEXSPACE and its impact on not only the design of the building, but also storage density and energy efficiency. MTC Logistics was purchased a few years ago by Lineage Logistics. I continued with Lineage Logistics for a period of time; then, after over 50 years in the industry, I decided to hang up my thermal coat and gloves.
I was recently approached by FlexCold, a young innovator in the cold storage warehouse world, to mentor the team and explore further opportunities for energy efficiency. As innovation has propelled this industry forward, it takes hungry, smart, passionate people to embrace change and work together to be better – I find that at FlexCold.
Q. How you define modern cold storage?
From my years of managing cold storage warehouse equipment and construction, the advent of automation has been a game-changer. Automating equipment such as packing and sorting equipment, cranes, and mole systems has made the overall operation more efficient. The introduction of mobile racking has not only right sized the building footprint but massively increased storage density. I was first introduced to the FLEXSPACE Mobile Racking System at MTC Logistics, now Lineage, in Mobile, Alabama. We visited plants in Europe who have been using the Mobile Racking System for years to see first-hand the system at work and its impact on operations. We implemented the FLEXSPACE Mobile Racking System and achieved maximum storage density in our 296,000 square-foot facility.
Another area of change is in the refrigeration systems. While large central ammonia systems have long been considered the most efficient, and they are still a major player, and CO2 has made a limited come back, the shift to low charge ammonia systems and innovations in synthetic refrigeration systems are now having a major impact on the industry. As a lifelong advocate of ammonia, no one was more surprised than me when I discovered the innovations that had been made in the use of synthetics. There are now systems on the market that not only relieve you of the major regulatory burdens of large ammonia systems but also operate more efficiently.
Q: In your experience, what are the main impacts of modern cold storage?
There was a time when people weren’t building cold storage warehouses. Today, we’re seeing lots of growth and more innovation to help drive efficiency. Overall, I see innovation needing to stay in step with regulatory requirements. For example, we’re going taller with stackable heights and understanding where sprinklers are incorporated is important. We are constantly analyzing how we can reduce energy consumption. Whether it’s with our refrigeration, lighting, building size, or exploring green energy sources – energy is a cost center where our modern building approach is creating bottom line benefits.
Q. You’ve had a seat on the board on CEBA (Controlled Environment Builders Association). Tell us about CEBA and how it’s helping to transform cold storage.
This is a highly specialized environment, far more complicated than building an ambient warehouse, or processing facility. As a partner with the Global Cold Chain Alliance, CEBA brings together the best and most experienced engineers, architects, venders, and design build contractors in the industry. There is a need to have an association that brings together these groups to network, learn, and grow.
As a group, CEBA is not only available to design and build your facility, but you will find them a willing resource to answer industry-related questions.
FlexCold is indeed fortunate to have Curt Edmisten on the team. His deep experience and a long history of innovation in the cold storage industry provides sound leadership and guidance for the FlexCold team. But Curt isn’t resting on his laurels. He brings a curiosity and questioning intelligence to the challenges our industry faces today, especially energy conservation.