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WDI-Special Focus

Henningsen Cold Storage Co.


Henningsen Cold Storage focuses on its future by developing lasting relationships and implementing the latest technologies to remain efficient.

By Janice Hoppe

As a fifth-generation family owned and operated cold supply chain logistics company, Henningsen Cold Storage has maintained stability over the past 93 years in an ever-changing industry by focusing on the long-term. “We take a long-term view of our business and our business relationships,” Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing Tony Lucarelli says. “We are not just looking at the next quarter; we are looking at the next decade. That has built in a lot of stability in a market today that has seen a lot of turnover in terms of company ownership and leadership.”

In 1923, Waldemar F. Henningsen Sr. founded Northwestern Ice & Cold Storage Co. in Portland, Ore. The company grew to seven locations throughout the Pacific Northwest – four in Portland, two in Washington and one in Idaho. In its second generation of leadership in 1973, the company changed to Henningsen Cold Storage.

Today, Henningsen Cold Storage offers temperature-controlled warehousing and logistics services from 10 locations throughout the country. Its national warehouse network totals more than 53 million cubic feet of multi-temperature-controlled storage ranging from -20 F to 70 F. “Our network, together with our transportation management services, translates to coast-to-coast reliability as we serve the production and distribution needs of local, regional, national and international clients,” the company says.

Committed to Service

Henningsen associates are the company’s greatest assets. That same level of dedication is reciprocated by the company’s associates and shown through their quality service. “Our customers have come to know they can rely on us and it’s been healthy relationships all around,” Lucarelli says. Henningsen box

Sixteen-and-a-half years is the average associate time within the company and that includes a 30 percent increase to the workforce two years ago. “Even adding that many more people in a short period of time, we still average a significantly high associate tenure of more than 16 years,” Lucarelli emphasizes.

The company focuses heavily on finding the right people for its positions to avoid turnover and to gain better quality associates. Henningsen spends a significant amount of time and money on the development of its 325 associates with a rigorous training program for new hires and cross-training for its warehouse and administrative positions.

“We invest in further education for key associates we see who are upwardly mobile in our company,” Lucarelli adds. “We also offer a generous tuition reimbursement program for those associates desiring to increase their skill sets and knowledge.”

Adapting to Change

Although Henningsen likes to keep its turnover low, the same can’t be said for the industry as a whole. Increased consolidation among its competitors and customers is one of the biggest changes the company has noticed, which is being driven by the consolidation of its customers’ customers.

Turnover in leadership positions is prevalent in the food and beverage manufacturing, retail and foodservice sectors, and is happening more often than Henningsen would like to see. “That’s one of the things we adapt to,” Lucarelli notes. “We have to reeducate and demonstrate, even more, how and what value we offer that adds value to our business relationships.”

Transparency and information sharing are just a couple of the ways Henningsen demonstrates its value-add. “It’s all about how well we provide information and how well we are interconnected with our clients,” Lucarelli explains. “One of the things we strive to do is to really develop a seamless connection with the information flow between our clients and us. There’s much more visibility in the supply chain.”

Henningsen operates a WMS platform across all of its facilities that is equipped with the latest technology and barcode scanning capabilities to provide the most accurate information and reliable service. “That allows for connectivity for our clients through an electronic data interchange,” Lucarelli explains. “Customers can also access information and reports through our web portal.”

Sustainable Operations

In addition to the latest operational technologies, Henningsen also implements the latest refrigeration technology in its warehouses to improve efficiency and minimize power consumption. “We are one of the leaders in our industry when it comes to improving the efficiencies of our energy use in our facilities,” Lucarelli says. “We championed those efforts heavily because energy is the No. 2 cost in the company.”

Henningsen is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by actively seeking or creating new ways to produce real energy efficiencies. The company achieves energy savings through facility design features such as reflective “cool roof” systems, upgraded insulation panels, high-speed bi-parting freezer doors and sealed loading docks.

The company uses computer-controlled variable speed compressors and fans to drive its refrigeration systems. The systems are constantly monitored both on and off site to ensure everything is operating at maximum efficiency rather than maximum power. In 2010, Henningsen installed solar panels on both of its Portland, Ore., warehouse locations, which combined have produced more than 1.2 million kilowatt hours of energy.

“We have stayed ahead of the curve and have been early adopters of a lot of new technologies related to energy consumption and power savings,” Lucarelli notes. “In a number of cases, we have helped design refrigeration systems when building new facilities or upgrading older systems.”

Further Expansion

In 2014, the company built a new, state-of-the-art cold storage facility in Salem, Ore., that is connected to NORPAC Foods’ processing plant. The 32,000-pallet cold storage facility is a dedicated facility, distributing NORPAC Foods’ frozen vegetable products throughout the United States. “This is our newest and largest single project we have done in company history,” he adds.

Henningsen also operates two facilities in the Midwest and one on the East Coast, and is always looking for new opportunities. “We are trying to expand our footprint to other markets where it makes sense,” Lucarelli says. “If we find the right customer relationships, an economic model that is sound for the client and for us, and the location is right, then we will do a project. We tend to build facilities with one or two primary clients that help us get started and then offer space and services to other clients in that regional area.”

Moving forward, Henningsen looks to automate its facilities but is waiting for material-handling equipment to be able to operate autonomously in cold storage environments. “It’s not quite there yet, but it’s coming soon,” Lucarelli says. “In the next five years, you are going to see material-handling equipment become more prevalent and be able to handle sub-zero temperatures. We are looking at that for a few of our facilities where it makes sense.” 

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