While the high level of automation in modern warehouse facilities accounts for major gains in operating efficiency, it also increases the risk of fire outbreaks. Indeed, most fires are caused by faulty electrics, including short circuits, overheated equipment and malfunctions in storage and retrieval vehicles.
Ensuring fire safety in any type of warehouse is an ambitious task. But when it comes to mini-load automated storage facilities, the job becomes even more challenging.
Mini-load containers are made from highly flammable polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE). Exposed to heat, these plastics behave like flammable liquids. What’s more: once they catch fire, they release as much heat as diesel or petrol. After a certain period of combustion, they melt into burning droplets, eventually dripping down to create a pool of fire under the storage configuration and dramatically accelerating spread.
Dense storage arrangements, with rack systems sometimes reaching over 130 ft. in height and very limited flue spaces, make it easy for fires to spread rapidly throughout the warehouse, both up and down. Another hazard: rising gases that, in a so-called chimney effect, cause a fire to reach warehouse ceilings in a matter of minutes.
By the time sprinklers are triggered in mini-load storage facilities, damage is typically well underway. What’s worse: even once the sprinklers turn on, they are largely ineffective. Why? When polypropylene and polyethylene catch fire, they melt and form an oily layer that water can barely penetrate. Water simply pearls off these plastics, and burning droplets continue to ignite containers underneath in a devastating domino effect. Conventional extinguishing systems, such as sprinklers, that rely on water or water fog are therefore only of limited use in automated mini-load storage centers.
High ceilings, dense storage, limited pathways, extreme heat development and falling parts can also all complicate the work of fire departments and endanger personnel.
Suppressing or extinguishing a fire in mini-load automated warehouse facilities is a very difficult proposition. It is especially important to proactively prevent a fire in these types of facilities, rather than trying to reactively fight it.
IMPERIAL Automotive Logistics GmbH specialises in all material and information flows throughout the entire added-value chain in the automotive industry. WAGNER protects its 10,000-square-metre automated small parts storage facility using its innovative active fire prevention and early fire detection solutions.
This premium manufacturer uses a shuttle system to ensure secure storage for its motors, transmissions and control units. Besides space-saving storage, the company also places great importance on reliable smoke detection at the earliest possible stage, which is why it uses WAGNER air sampling smoke detection and residue-free gas extinguishing systems.