Understanding the Dynamics of a Cold Chain Operation

April 07, 2017 | 0 Go Back to Blogs

A cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply chain. The cold chain includes various products such as produce, seafood, frozen food, photographic film, floral, chemicals and pharmaceuticals – all of which have specific temperature requirements in regards to storage and transportation to maintain quality and freshness.

The cold chain is a bit more complex than a standard one. The biggest challenge in this type of supply chain is that there are multiple parties involved who do not all have the same level of visibility or protocols to follow. This causes breakdowns in the chain which can ultimately ends in disaster – aka: spoiled products, for example. Also, there is not 100% transparency among every step in this supply chain. Typically, temperatures of perishable goods are easily tracked and monitored within distribution and warehouse facilities, however, once the product is loaded and transported that visibility gets lost, again resulting in possible product loss or damage.

Without the proper protocols, security, and technology, cold chain products are put at risk. One statistic provided by DeltaTrak says if a trailer’s temperature increases by only 2 degrees Fahrenheit, it can reduce produce shelf life by as much as 50%. To put in a monetary perspective, here’s a different example provided by Inbound Logistics: one shipment of pharmaceutical products could cost a company anywhere from $150,000 to millions of dollars if transportation temperatures are not maintained. That’s why keeping a close watch on these temperature-controlled trailers and environments is critical to any successful business within the cold chain.

Why Temperature Control and Monitoring is Important

With the proper protocols in place in conjunction with real-time visibility tracking technology and temperature sensor monitoring, your cold chain operations will benefit greatly. Take a look at some of the benefits we’ve provided below.

  • Reduce the risk of spoilage and waste. With visibility to the temperature of the trailer, the whereabouts of the trailer and more, you’ll be able to maintain high quality and freshness of your products and feel confident your products will arrive safely and intact.
  • Improve inventory & logistics management. Having the right technology and protocols in place will help the left-hand talk to the right-hand – allowing for streamlined operations ultimately improving your bottom line.
  • Proactive Compliance. Early incident detection allows you to act quicker – stopping spoilage (and more) before it occurs.
  • Avoid brand damage. Nothing hurts worse than having your brand be compromised. With the proper procedures and track-and-trace, temperature sensor technology in place, you’re doing your part to maintain upstanding quality and reputation of your brand.
  • Decrease liability. Technology and protocols can help reduce risk to the vehicle and driver safety, which in turn will decrease liability.
  • Stay ahead of the competition. Implementing standard operating procedures and the latest technology will put your brand at the top of the heap. Why? Because now your products are consistently fresh and in the highest quality every time.

Best Practices to Efficiently Run Cold Chain Operations

To ensure your products maintain the highest quality within their temperature-controlled environment and your operations are run as efficiently as possible, we’ve compiled these 6 best practices to keep in mind.

  1. Secure trained, temperature controlled specialists. Keep in mind, when looking for qualified experts, they should understand the importance of a strong relationship between the carrier and the shipper. Look for specialists who will help both the shipper and carrier benefit by balancing unattractive load qualities with more strategic initiatives. This will help lead to strong vendor relationships.
  2. Foster strong relationships based on needs. Consider what all parties need including the shippers and carriers. This will help secure capacity in the right lanes at the right times and help mitigate higher costs.
  3. Set clear expectations for all parties from the get go. Discuss all details with all vendors including assigning tasks to each role so that each party has a complete understanding of their job function in maintaining quality within your cold chain based off your requirements. Planning ahead will help mitigate risks and assist in quickly resolving any complications that may arise.
  4. Share responsibility at the most critical and complex points in a temperature controlled supply chain – during loading and unloading. Following these three protocols between the shipper and the carrier will aid in your commitment to shipping high-quality goods every time:
    1. Confirm the temperature needed for your product. All parties should know what temperature your products require so that quality is not compromised.
    2. Inspect the condition of the equipment. Check for things that could compromise the proper temperature of your products including: positioning of trailer vents, tears in chutes, odors that may contaminate products, etc.
    3. Check for proper container air flow. Blocked air flow may cause hot or cold air spots which can cause the temperature to drop or spike. Maintaining proper air flow will help regulate the temperature your products require.
  5. Find the right technology based on your costs and needs. What type of products you have and the value of your products will help you determine how much you need to spend on new technology. More expensive or sensitive products may be worth adding more robust technology which may be costlier. Data provided by technology can help achieve things like: improvements in decision making through real-time track and trace visibility technology, managing your fleet and the maintenance of your vehicles, keeping the   vehicle, driver and cargo safe as well as maintaining regulatory compliance. Various technology to keep in mind that can assist you within your cold chain operations includes tracking the trailer’s temperature and air flow with real time reporting, temperature sensors within the trailer, GPS tracking and automatic alerts if temperature values stray from the specified range.
  1. Establish best practices and standard operating procedures among all parties. Be detailed so there are no questions! Three main points your SOPs should include are: who is responsible, what needs to happen, and how checks and balances occur. Here’s a list of some additional details you may want to include within your SOPs:
  • Acceptable temperature ranges
  • Continuous temperature vs cycle settings to proper seals
  • Contingency plans
  • Equipment expectations
  • Process for returns and rejections

Summary

With the right tools and end-to-end visibility, you’ll be able to proactively focus on regulatory compliance and audits of your vendors and protocols instead of having to manually monitor the details in between. The end goal should always be to be proactive and to intercept food quality and safety issues before they turn into problems. There is no price you can put on the value of your brand so take care of it!

Overhaul provides the level of visibility and security needed to help streamline operations while keeping cargo secure. Also, with temperature reporting features and alerts coming in the future, cold chain businesses will have the comprehensive technology they need to quickly and easily maintain proper temperature controls and mitigate risk before it takes a turn for the worst.

We’re committed to helping you receive the right level of temperature checks and load transparency, before it’s too late!

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References

Inbound Logistics. “Navigating Pharma Logistics.” http://www.inboundlogistics.com/cms/article/navigating-pharma-logistics/

DeltaTrak. “Produce Shelf Life: Issues and Extension Methods from Harvest to Retailer.” http://www.deltatrak.com/index.php/produce-shelf-life-issues-and-extension-methods-from-harvest-to-retailer. 2014.

Petersen, Mark. “Six Supply Chain Best Practices for Temperature-Sensitive Freight.” Food Logistics, Jolene Gulley, 27 June 2016, www.foodlogistics.com/article/12217679/six-supply-chain-best-practices-for-temperature-sensitive-freight-cool-insights-june-2016. Accessed 28 Mar. 2017.

Wikipedia contributors. “Cold chain.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 Mar. 2017. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.

 

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