Preferred Freezer takes great pride in its temperature controlled warehouses. From modest beginnings in New Jersey, the company has grown to become one of the largest public refrigerated warehousing companies with more than 1,600 employees and 270 million square feet of warehouse space with freezer facilities that generate over $300 million in sales.

Preferred Freezer strives to be the best in its industry, which means keeping constant watch over the issues most relevant to its operation: maintaining quality product for their customers, speed and accuracy in picking (retrieving products from the warehouse), safety and cleanliness and a constant drive to improve the bottom line. These efforts led the company to LEDs.

“It’s imperative that we keep our freezer as cold as possible and maintain that temperature because we store food,” says Brian Baum, lead maintenance technician for Preferred Freezer. He explains the problem is the metal halide lights give off immense heat. “So you have 300 of these lights in the freezer, you can see how many BTUs they’re producing, and it affects our cooling capacity. Our refrigeration systems have to run harder.”

Additionally, part of the company’s responsibility is to receive and transport goods, hand-stack products on a pallet, count and lot them, and put them into cold storage until the customer wants them. That’s when the process is reversed. In a semi-automated retrieval process, workers must have enough light to quickly and correctly identify barcodes that label the customers’ products. Pallets are handled only once to reduce damage and improve operational efficiency.

Existing high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps and fluorescents lost light levels quickly making it harder to see the barcodes and required constant replacement to provide bright enough conditions for optimal picking. Safety and cleanliness is of utmost importance to Preferred Freezer, but there were times the dock was so dark that the employees felt more susceptible to injury.

Preferred Freezer’s old lights also increased its cooling costs and energy bills and required frequent maintenance. To replace these lights, a scissor lift had to be brought in every few months and all picking in those areas had to be stopped. These increased costs and downtime drove the company to consider LED lighting technology. Research revealed that, in addition to lower energy, air conditioning and maintenance costs, upgrading to LED also made the company eligible for some government incentives.

Acuity Brands, a provider of LED lighting products and services, was identified to deliver the right lighting solutions to address all of the company’s needs. From the cold storage warehouse to back offices to the loading dock and outdoor lighting, each location was upgraded to LED and the benefits were instantly recognized.

Better lighting meant not only optimized picking and lower electricity bills, but also enhanced safety. General manager for Preferred Freezer Dan Albretsen says one of the biggest benefits is the clarity of the lighting both on the loading dock and in the freezer space.

“When you walk into the freezers that have been converted, it’s white and crisp,” he says. “You can see the numbers on those cases much more clearly. And that quality benefit really helps in our business.”

For more information:

Mick Wilcox, Acuity Brands; (800) 922-9641;