Warehouse automation is expanding to cold storage. stow Robotics and Phononic today announced a strategic alliance to provide cold-chain fulfillment systems that serve the retail grocery industry in North America and Europe. The companies said they will combine stow Robotics' automation expertise with Phononic's solid-state active cooling technology to design, develop, and scale systems, particularly for grocery automated fulfillment centers.
“stow Robotics is thrilled to work with Phononic and welcome their cooling technology and design solutions into our scalable automation work with key customers in North America and Europe,” stated Brian Keiger, director of business development and marketing at stow Robotics.
“We have a unique technology that fits nicely in the gap between other automation solutions in the market for customers at a specific point in their journey,” he added. “Our strict adherence to standard components and modular deployments allows our innovative e.Scala solution to be installed and commissioned quickly, resulting in an accelerated return on investment.”
stow Robotics is the warehouse automation business unit of stow Group launched in 2021. Spiere-Helkijn, Belgium-based stow Group is a leading supplier of industrial storage systems. It has about 2,000 employees in Europe and North America and 10 facilities across Europe.
Phononic provides sustainable, 'mission-critical' cooling
Storing and picking frozen items is an expensive and cumbersome exercise, requiring an entire building to be kept at minus temperatures and employees to work within this intolerable environment to select items and consolidate them with the ambient and chilled part of orders.
Durham, N.C.-based Phononic said its solid-state cooling technology can reduce greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions while meeting the performance needs of the market.
The company claimed that its innovative systems use a safe and sustainable refrigerant: water mixed with naturally available carbon dioxide, featuring a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of just 1 or less. This approach produces the safest and lowest GWP rating in the industry compared with other commonly used refrigerants that contribute to climate change, it said.
Phononic added that its thermoelectric devices and integrated products are “mission-critical” to cooling living and work spaces, delivering vaccines and drugs, and supporting cold-chain fulfillment. It said its systems allow grocery retailers to deploy automation in an existing footprint, reducing large upfront capital costs while lowering operating labor and maintenance costs.
In addition, Phononic said its technology adds flexibility while fractionalizing across tri-temperature environments. Phononic’s connected services for its Actively-Cooled Tote platform integrate with warehouse automation systems and provide dynamic response for inventory and order management. The company is exhibiting at Manifest 2023 in Las Vegas this week.
stow Robotics partnership enables mixed orders
The strategic alliance between stow Robotics and Phononic allows frozen items to be stored alongside ambient and chilled products in the same automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS). It will also provide flexibility when the proportion between temperature controlled and ambient SKUs change, said the partners.
“Joining forces with stow Robotics, a technology-driven leader in warehouse automation, allows Phononic to continue designing and providing the most critical, flexible end-to-end solutions for cold chain fulfillment in grocery retail,” said Dana Krug, senior vice president for cold-chain fulfillment at Phononic. “We’re excited to work closely with stow Robotics to deliver advanced cooling technology for this rapidly expanding sector with a global partner that is committed to innovation.”
Also, grocers can fulfill mixed orders in a single step, avoiding the usual time-consuming consolidation process, according to the companies. The e.Scala shuttles deliver temperature-controlled items, as well as ambient items to the pick station in any required sequence.
“Phononic’s IoT [Internet of Things] software and dynamic messaging will enable e.Scala to act more intelligently and promptly to inventory and order management scenarios,” said Rainer Buchmann, senior advisor to stow Robotics. “With this alliance, we’re accelerating our shared vision of marshalling the most advanced technology for the present and future of warehouse automation.”