pharmaOn the surface, the cold food industry and pharmaceutical manufacturers don’t have much in common. However, one aspect they do share is the need to operate under extreme temperatures.

For example, ESI Group USA, Hartland, Wis., is in the process of completing the construction of an 83,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art plasma logistics facility for the low-temperature storage, inspection and clearing of frozen human blood plasma for Grifols Worldwide Operations USA, Inc. in Clayton, N.C. The AS/RS accommodates over 5,000 pallet positions, and the refrigeration and double redundant power supplies are key to the operation, as supporting spaces include 12,000 square feet of office conference space, locker rooms and a 2-story entry lobby.

“Regulatory agencies require human blood plasma to be stored at -25°C or colder. To assure this requirement is met while handling boxes of plasma bottles, room temperature in the warehouse is kept at -35°C,” says Mike McCormick, senior project engineering manager for the Los Angeles-based pharmaceutical manufacturer. “Automated crane, conveying and robotics systems help minimize the time employees have to spend in the cold environment and track the location of pallets, cases and bottles while in the building. In addition, many levels of redundancy have been designed into the electrical and refrigeration systems to assure we protect the product in storage.”

What the cold food industry can learn from Grifols is that pharmaceutical plants use a “quality by design” philosophy, which ensures that a design operates right the first time.

“We chose ESI based on their experience with automation, rack-supported structures and construction of low-temperature freezer facilities,” says McCormick. “Additionally, we were impressed with the people ESI planned to assign to the project and their personal knowledge of the nuances of low-temperature construction.”