According to Matt Richardson, site manager at the NewCold facility at 46th and South Orchard streets in Tacoma, NewCold’s success is based on “workplace culture and customer service via automation.”
Founded in 2013, NewCold is headquartered in The Netherlands and led by cold storage veteran Bram Hage. The company now operates automated cold-store facilities in six countries and is planning to expand — including construction of a Burley, Idaho, facility scheduled to open later this year, additional U.S. locations and more facilities abroad. “If you look forward to the next 18 months, it gets pretty exciting,” Richardson said.
Richardson confirmed NewCold’s expansion to the United States was always a part of the firm’s growth plan. “The United States eats and stores more frozen food than anywhere else, and a great deal of business capital goes toward the handling of these goods,” he said. “NewCold’s automated systems and green cold-store innovations were perfectly suited for a U.S. introduction.”
Richardson also noted that it is NewCold’s policy to establish an anchor customer before pursuing large expansions. In this case, a contract with Trident Seafoods influenced NewCold’s plan to head west and open shop in Tacoma last year. NewCold’s official tenure in the United States began in January 2018, as Trident’s first pallet of frozen goods arrived at NewCold’s Tacoma facility to be stored. The opening was three years in the making after the NewCold/Trident expansion team first approached the Pierce County Economic Development Board to inquire about a potential location.
“The EDB of Pierce County was involved in the business-development process from early on,” said Jonas Swarttouw, NewCold’s U.S. country manager. “Not only were they great people to work with who truly believed in our project; they were also very well-connected to all authorities and organizations relevant for developing the business case for our project.”
Since, outside of a public grand-opening event in May, the NewCold team has been quietly fulfilling the needs of its clients. Nevertheless, the humongous 250,000-square-foot white warehouse towering over Highway 16 still elicits questions. Still, it is what happens inside this building that makes it most special.
Every day, frozen goods are trucked into the facility from across the region. Without interrupting a temperature requirement, each pallet is transferred to automated cranes that travel up and down the 140-foot-high warehouse. State-of-the-art technologies log goods into inventory, tell the cranes where to place items for later distribution, and communicate with each client’s business software.
The added height and automated crane system enable NewCold to accomplish the same goals as conventional cold-store facilities using 70 percent less energy. Furthermore, the consolidation of more goods translates to less road time and maintenance. “We use less energy to keep more items cold,” said Richardson. “This also takes away the risk of energy and labor increases.”
Yet Richardson feels it is NewCold’s workforce that really makes the company successful. “NewCold isn’t a traditional facility that can hire blue-collar workers to drive a forklift, so we hire people with skill sets that we can train,” he said. “We also offer employees competitive pay and benefits, and a corporate culture founded on the values of loyalty, continuous improvement, passion, and communication.”