Food often presents evidence when temperature changes have affected it along the distribution chain. The pepperonis on a frozen pizza shift from center and ice cream loses texture. Condensation or ice crystals might appear on the inside of a plastic food package. Unfortunately, electronic components and modules do not always present such overt clues. Shippers readily recognize the need for climate-controlled warehouses for food, but less realize its importance for electronic components, which can be an expensive mistake. This article provides insight on why and how to maintain the quality of your electronic parts while in storage.
What is Climate Control in Warehousing?
Climate-controlled warehouses artificially manage temperature, humidity, and air movement inside a building. These warehouses use systems and processes that remove climate unpredictability that can affect product quality. The warehouses control for things like outside temperature fluctuations, cold spots near bays or hot spots near ceilings, humidity swings, and temperature variations across different products. Overall, climate-controlled warehouses prevent environmental inconsistencies to produce regulated conditions regardless of changing variables.
Why is Climate Control Important for Electronic Components?
Electronic components and modules are sensitive to both temperature and humidity. Plastic casings change shape with extreme heat or cold. Metal expands and contracts based on temperature as well. However, perhaps most damaging to electronics is humidity, which is the amount of water vapor in the air. Humidity produces water molecules that penetrate component insulation, block voltage, and corrode chips.
Humidity damage often doesn’t openly present itself, especially without dismantling electronic casings. Many devices receive component parts from across the world, get assembled, and then are shipped to the consumer. Because humidity issues often go undetected, companies must test multiple electronic component parts before isolating the issue of a product failure. This inflates product costs, impacts supply forecasting, and can cause significant shipping delays while replacement parts are ordered from overseas.
High humidity alters component conductivity while low humidity causes parts to become too brittle. The sweet spot is a relative humidity range of 30 to 50 percent. Let’s give this some context. It might seem like humidity wouldn’t present a major problem for electronic component storage in Alabama in winter. However, our historic humidity in Huntsville where we have our climate-controlled warehouse averages 69% for February. We average 26 percent humidity swings between morning and afternoon, staying consistently above the 50 percent threshold ideal for electronic components. We designed our warehouse to protect components and modules from seemingly innocent numbers like these.
How Is Climate Control Achieved?
Climate-controlled warehouses like ours combine several techniques for managing humidity and temperature. Air flow control is important. Warehouses should have sealing strips around all door openings. Shelves should be plotted to regulate air movement. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers control air moisture to prevent mildew, condensation, and dryness.
Controlling for temperature also prevents large humidity swings. This is especially important as products enter or exit containers and trailers. High-quality climate-controlled warehouses monitor temperature continuously and can produce audit reports. The temperature system should have sensors that issue alerts when out of compliance. In the event of a system failure, back-up cooling and heating systems must be in place. The warehouse should be zoned by temperature or include specialized storage spaces that control for various climates. The building also should be properly insulated and weatherproofed.
For more information on electronics components fulfillment and the supply chain, read our blog article “Electronic Component Distribution: Questions to Avoid a Million-Dollar Logistics Mistake.”