New Partnership to Advance Cold-Chain Fulfillment in Grocery Retail

Phononic and stow Robotics to design and scale cooling technology
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer

stow Robotics, the warehouse automation business unit within stow Group, and Phononic, a solid-state cooling technology provider based in Durham, N.C., have formed a strategic alliance to provide cold-chain fulfillment solutions for the retail grocery industry across North America and Europe. Combining stow Robotics’ automation expertise with Phononic’s sustainable active cooling technology, the two companies are collaborating to design, develop and scale solutions for cold-chain fulfillment, particularly for grocery automated fulfillment centers.

Phononic’s Actively-Cooled Tote platform gives grocery retailers the ability to deploy automated solutions in an existing footprint, reducing large upfront capital costs while lowering operating labor and maintenance costs, and adding flexibility while fractionalizing across tri-temperature environments. Connected services for the cooling solution also provide seamless integration with warehouse automation systems and dynamic response for inventory and order management.

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Additionally, Phononic’s solid-state cooling and refrigeration uses a safe and sustainable refrigerant: H2O mixed with naturally available CO2, featuring a global-warming potential (GWP) of just 1 or less. According to the company, this approach produces the safest and lowest GWP rating in the industry compared with other commonly used refrigerants that contribute to climate change.

Storing and picking frozen items can be expensive and cumbersome, requiring an entire building to be kept at minus temperatures and employees to work within a harsh environment to select items and consolidate them with the ambient and chilled part of orders. The strategic alliance between stow Robotics and Phononic allows frozen items to be stored alongside ambient and chilled products in the same system, and provides flexibility when the proportion between temperature-controlled and ambient SKUs changes. Mixed orders can also be fulfilled in a single step, avoiding the usual time-consuming consolidation process. The e.Scala shuttles deliver temperature-controlled items as well as ambient items to the pick station in any required sequence.

“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,” said Brian Keiger, director of business development and marketing at stow Robotics, which is based in Belgium. “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, and 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.” 

Rainer Buchmann, senior advisor to stow Robotics, added, “Phononic’s IoT software and dynamic messaging will enable e.Scala to act more intelligently and promptly to inventory and order management scenarios. With this alliance, we’re accelerating our shared vision of marshalling the most advanced technology for the present and future of warehouse automation.”

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