A few years ago, a customer’s feedback got Woolworths thinking whether storescould be replenished by quieter delivery trucks. The quest to find an answer led Woolworths to refrigeration technology that revolutionizes the transport of perishable goods on trucks.
The solution, ecoFridge refrigeration, is fundamentally different from the widely used mechanical systems. Woolworths is one of only a handful of retailers in the world to pilot this system. With no moving parts, it is designed to be one of the quietest transport refrigeration systems of its generation, operating at zero decibels.
Woolworths has learnt that attention to temperature control makes a difference to product quality. If the temperature of milk, for example, is correctly controlled from production to the store, then customers can enjoy a longer shelf life. Temperature controlled storage is sometimes referred to as a cold chain. It’s a quality assurance practice that Woolworths rigidly follows. The ecoFridge can accurately maintain multiple temperature zones in one truck. In short, it allows Woolworths to comfortably transport products that may need to be stored at different temperatures in one truck. The ecoFridge system is virtually maintenance free requiring annual inspection only. It lasts twice as long as mechanical systems.
Woolworths also believes it has a responsibility to manage vehicle transport emissions carefully and join in the fight against climate change. The ecoFridge uses naturally occurring nitrogen instead of diesel. The units can eliminate between 24 to 30 tons of CO2 per year, per truck. ecoFridge complies with the emission standards set by the Montreal Protocol (2010) and it successor the Kyoto Protocol (2015).
If, for any reason, the nitrogen refrigeration system is damaged, the nitrogen will simply evaporate. Currently one truck in the fleet is using the ecoFridge unit and a total of four trucks will form part of the trial. EcoFridge is designed and manufactured by Ukram Industries in the Ukraine.
Additional facts about the ecoFridge system are:
‘¢ It is 70-80% faster than mechanical systems in achieving pull-down to set temperature. i.e. reducing temperature to required level.
‘¢ Chills products evenly and efficiently.
‘¢ The “pull down’ temperature from 30°C to -18°C takes less than 40 minutes. Diesel systems can take up to 120 minutes.
‘¢ A control panel in the vehicle allows monitoring of the EcoFridge system, including diagnostics and a full operational history of the delivery vehicles task schedule.
Another important innovation introduced by Woolworths recently is the use of bio-diesel in its trucks’ fuel. Woolworths claims to be the first major local retailer to introduce SABS approved bio-diesel to its truck fuel. The ingredient makes up 5% of the fuel. The greener additive is produced from alternatives, like Woolies’ own recycled cooking oil. The use of 5% bio-diesel has saved 1 200 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
“Woolworths operates likes a think tank for retail innovation. We believe that even what we do best, can be done better. Road transport emits carbon dioxide which can damage the ozone layer, ultimately resulting in climate change. We have a responsibility to mitigate the negative impact of our transport on the environment. This is a vital and critical component of Woolworths Good business journey, our plan to protect people and planet,’ says Fawza Essa, divisional director: Woolworths IT and Supply Chain. The Good business journey focuses on four key priorities , accelerating transformation, driving social development, enhancing Woolworths’ environmental focus and addressing climate change.
For more information on the ecoFridge, we urge readers to access the article titled ‘˜Push is on to go Green’ which was featured in our September edition. It can be accessed on our web site at www.fleetwatch.co.za