Illawarra Smallgoods’ ASRS Freezer Project comes to completion

Building one of the first medium size Automatic Storage & Retrieval System (ASRS) industrial freezers in Australia had its challenges. However, Total Construction’s expertise made sure it was up and running on time.

Total Construction has recently completed Illawarra Smallgoods’  new fully automatic freezer project – that is one of the few facilities to have implemented a completely automated freezer in Australia.

The company wanted to utilise an Automatic Storage & Retrieval Systems (ASRS), which were once the domain of only the larger players in the food and beverage space. However, as Illawarra Smallgoods can now contest, these types of installations are now an affordable option for all food and beverage manufacturers.

The new facility, which adjoins Illawarra Smallgoods current facility in Fairy Meadows, is 917m2 of freezer and associated logistics area. The building itself is a combination of pre-cast panels and sandwich panels on a suspended slab. The freezer has an automated racking system, which was selected by the client because it allows the freezer to act as a “dark room” with no personnel working inside the space itself. This not only maximises storage space, but reduces power consumption in maintaining freezer temperature and removes the need for extensive defrosting due to reduced volumes of moisture getting into the freezer.

The project began in April 2020 and managed to overcome the advent of COVID-19 restrictions, lockdowns, and numerous onsite issues to ensure the project continue unabated.

The project team within Total’s Engineering Construction Group (ECG) worked closely with Illawarra Smallgoods’, Production Reality’s (inform racking), and West Refrigeration’s teams to develop the design and derive a design and budget that met Illawarra Smallgoods’ needs.

The desired outcome for Illawarra Smallgoods was to provide maximum storage capacity without exceeding the pre-approved DA footprint. To help achieve this, Total Construction suggested using pre-cast panels on the eastern support walls rather than using internal columns, thus maximising internal space.

To aid in minimising cost and maximise space, West Refrigeration employed the use of a shipping container rather than build a services room for the refrigeration equipment. This container was to be mounted externally in an area behind the loading docks, high up on a purpose-built platform. Getting the container in place required special attention by Total’s onsite team, as the location was immediately adjacent a Telecommunications Cellular Tower situated on an easement within the site. The team held their collective breaths during that lift.

Ground conditions

Extensive ground works were required for the project with the existence of Recoverable Hydrocarbons (TRH or oil derivatives) already known to be in one area of the site. This ground needed to be remediated prior to building works commencing.

To complicate the ground works further, asbestos was discovered during the TRH remediation works, which resulted in the need to remove some 1200mm deep of fill across the entire site. This threatened to put a stop to the project, but the client elected to continue despite the additional costs involved.

Just when the Project Team thought they were on top of all the issues, another unforeseen problem reared its head – an existing sewer pipe that ran near the rear of the property needed to be strengthened.

“The team, including the client were beginning to wonder when the project would get out of the ground and onto the main build,” said ECG general manager Rob Blythman.

“Although these complications, and the advent of a global pandemic all weighed heavily on meeting the clients’ timeframe, the dogged determination and dedication by all involved kept the projects’ momentum moving forward and relatively on programme.”

There was a looming risk of detecting further TRH and/or asbestos through excavation of the adjoining site, which was required to satisfy landscaping requirements as per DA. To mitigate this risk the Total project team needed to get creative on the approved landscaping layout. Rather than implement garden beds along the boundary of the adjoining site, it was proposed to use raised garden beds with open bases, therefore complying with DA requirements for “Deep Soil Planting” without having to excavate the existing ground.

“That was a problem solved and although there was a need to submit a DA alteration (Section 4.55) to council, all was approved,” said Blythman.

Total Construction’s years of experience has shown that every project, no matter how well planned, has its fair share of issues and complications to overcome. It is a builder’s ability to adapt and work with the client to provide solutions that is the key to a project’s success. Total Construction prides itself on its ability to provide such solutions rather than just provide work arounds.

Inform Automatic Storage & Retrieval System (ASRS)

The Inform ASRS system installed in the freezer was produced in Nanjing China and utilises a “Shuttle Mover” system, which employs the use of individual shuttles on each racking level that are feed from a “Pallet Lifter” located within the freezer. The Pallet Lifter is fed via forklifts through a controlled airlock. The shuttles themselves run on rails with pallet location and placement guided by QR Code readers.

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