Photo: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, 2013.
Food distribution relies on a very stable demand that must be satisfied in a timely fashion, particularly for the distribution of perishable food products such as produce, dairy, and meat. The tendency has been the consolidation of food distribution in large complexes servicing extensive markets through the cross-docking paradigm (outbound and inbound sides of the distribution center and warehousing in the middle). The facility in the above photo is a 1.1 million square foot Regina warehouse owned by Loblaw, which is comprised of several chambers:
- Grocery (G) section with 285,000 square feet at room temperature.
- Produce (P) section with a total of 35,000 square feet, subdivided into a wet room (10,000 square feet at 2 degrees Celsius, mostly for lettuce), a citrus room (10,000 square feet at 7 degrees Celsius), and a general produce room (15,000 square feet at 13 degrees Celsius).
- The dairy and meat (D) section has a total of 75,000 square feet at 2 degrees Celsius.
- Frozen (F) section with 82,000 square feet at -10 degrees Celsius.
Each of these chambers has its own temperature range and square footage relative to the volume it handles. In the grocery section above, orders taken from the racks (right side) are assembled (palletized) into truckloads in front of loading doors (left side). Each load will be delivered to a specific grocery store in the market area serviced by the distribution center, which encompasses most of Western Canada.