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Your Complete Guide to Cold Chain Logistics

Time to read: 5 minutes

Over the past few years, the expansion of global trade and eCommerce has led to numerous improvements and evolutions in business practices. More entrepreneurs are constantly upgrading their infrastructure and tools for product storage and transportation.

The growth of international markets and supply chains has directly impacted the development of cold chain logistics.

Table Of Contents

Cold chain logistics was created in response to the growing demand for safe long-distance transportation of temperature-sensitive goods. Because of higher living standards in industrialized countries, consumers want high-quality, fresh goods. Many successful supply chain strategies in the current eCommerce industry include cold chain logistics.

As its name suggests, the cold chain is a logistics management procedure for goods requiring refrigerated temperatures. It entails carrying out operations to prepare, store, and move products along the cold supply chain. Many products and essential items require a specific temperature during storage. Failure to do so results in waste. Both the transporter and their client lose money when cold goods spoil. 

A successful cold chain logistics ensures temperature-sensitive goods are kept within ideal temperatures. Specialized equipment helps retain the desired conditions. To extend the shelf life of ice cream, suppliers must maintain it frozen. If the product loses its solid state, it will be unfit for sale or consumption.

The cold chain is crucial to manufacturers of food and pharmaceuticals because it helps prevent product contamination throughout shipment and storage before it is sold. These companies constantly strive to improve their cold chain management, even though it differs from their expertise.  Fortunately, they can always rely on specialized shipping firms to ensure their goods are delivered promptly and properly.

How Does Cold Chain Logistics Work?

Logistics for the cold chain comprises several moving parts. Temperature-controlled storage packaging, transport facilities, well-trained staff, and efficient procedures are required for effective cold chain operations.

Temperature-Controlled Storage & Packaging

The cold chain logistics begins when temperature-sensitive goods leave a manufacturer’s facility. The entire process starts with keeping the products in a refrigerated facility. 

After production, companies must keep the goods in storage until they are delivered to a customer or a distribution center. Certain commodities must be stored in temperature-controlled environments protected against temperature variations and power outages. Power outages may also cause products to lose quality or get spoiled.

Most temperature-controlled warehouses incorporate an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and generators as backups to handle such unforeseen risks. In cold storage facilities, infrared thermometers are used to measure temperature remotely.

Wired digital thermometers are utilized when conventional thermometers cannot function because of extreme cold. These are typically seen in deep-freeze shipping or warehousing.

Cold rooms, chillers, cold boxes, blast freezers, and vaccine carriers are a few examples of standard cold storage equipment and facilities. 

Temperature-Controlled Transportation

Transporting temperature-sensitive goods requires the use of temperature-controlled vehicles. They are fitted with refrigeration equipment to maintain the temperatures needed for the products.

Commonly referred to as reefer trucks or refrigerated vehicles, these vehicles have a separate area or container with a temperature control system made of mobile refrigeration units. Either fuel or batteries power the refrigeration units.

In reefers, electronic temperature monitoring and recording devices are typically used to record and report internal temperatures. Other important conditions, like humidity, are also constantly monitored throughout a refeer truck’s journey.

Trained Staff

It’s easy to get carried away when focusing on processes, technology, and equipment when discussing cold chain management. Human resources are just as crucial to the smooth flow of goods throughout the cold chain.

The cold chain logistics requires qualified personnel at every stage of the procedure. This includes storage, packaging, condition monitoring, and shipment. 

A knowledgeable and well-trained team greatly increases the effectiveness of cold chain logistics operations. Aside from cold chain technologies, staff should know other supply chain technologies. Training should be conducted as needed.

Cold Chain Logistics Operations

A shipment’s integrity throughout the supply chain must avoid experiencing any delays or temperature anomalies. Having a thorough logistical plan helps to prevent these disruptions. The preparation of the shipments and final verification of the shipment’s integrity at the delivery point are two significant elements that make up this process.

Cold chain logistics operations should have effective, simple procedures in place. A cold chain company’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) should eliminate all hazards in its everyday operations. A thorough awareness of market requirements will help streamline every process.

Your responsibility doesn’t end immediately when a package leaves a cold storage warehouse. Users using real-time location and condition trackers receive alerts of deliveries in real-time, and data is automatically uploaded to the cloud. A mobile app could also transfer temperature data from contemporary temperature loggers to the cloud. 

Temperature sensors on each shipment en route as well as those in the warehouse, automatically collect and store data. This makes it simple for staff to spot temperature outliers. This data is gathered electronically to save time and money.

Additionally, it lessens errors while giving receivers peace of mind. An audit trail for compliance requirements ensures that cold chain custody was maintained along the supply chain trip.  Companies can check the audit trail for any disputes and discrepancies.

Common Use Cases for Cold Chain Logistics

Cold chain logistics is essential for the secure storage and transportation of perishables in many different industries. Manufacturing, healthcare, and agriculture rely on cold chain services. Farm-to-table business models, new medications,  and vaccines need cold chain more than ever.

Food & Beverage

The earliest and most evident use case for the cold chain dates back centuries to prevent rot and mold. It involved storing and delivering perishable food products. They were able to keep food from rotting by putting them in ice.

Several food categories require different thermal conditions. Tropical fruits such as bananas and pineapples undergo ripening while being transported. These fruits are typically chilled between 12° to 14°C to keep them from ripening.

Some vegetables, dairy products, and meat must be chilled, meaning they must be kept at around  2° to 4°C.  For frozen and deep-frozen seafood, bread & pastries, and ice cream, they are stored at sub-zero temperatures reaching up to -25° to -30°C.

Healthcare & Chemicals

Pharma products are typically flown when they must be sent urgently.

However, most choose ocean transportation for bulk orders because it is less expensive and more secure. Additionally, there is a greater need for packaging choices and containers that can maintain extremely low temperatures.

Different raw materials and finished products may need storage at various temperatures to preserve their effectiveness. Any change in this temperature or improper handling of the substance could permanently taint it. Vaccines and medications could become ineffective. Some experimental drugs and treatments could lose their efficacy or critical medical data.

If these things happen, shippers might face regulatory action and reputation damage.

Some chemicals could expand if improperly stored. This can cause their storage containers to burst.  In addition to potential safety problems,  frigid temperatures could harm the chemicals and make them more difficult to use.

Outside climate conditions could also impact chemical storage, especially when the temperature falls below zero. Proper temperature-controlled storage is absolutely necessary when transporting frozen chemicals. 

But the cold chain supply industry is continually evolving to meet the needs of shippers and customers. Cold chain product suppliers must adjust when customers alter their consumption habits to satisfy the shifting demands. Operations for managing the cold chain must also adapt to these developments. 

Cold chain logistics management is a continuous process. It requires a committed team and cooperative supply chain relationships dedicated to great service. Moving temperature-sensitive perishable foods, medications, and medical supplies is a must. 

Products that are sensitive to temperature are not all made equal. As every product differs, maintaining its integrity along the cold chain requires specialized management. Shipping businesses must adhere to rules and regulations set by industry regulators in the cold chain supply.

It’s important to work with a partner who knows all supply chain logistics and management. 

Working with ZhenHub you can access cold chain logistics expertise and digital tools for easy inventory management. Track temperature-sensitive cargo easily and communicate with all stakeholders in real-time. Sign-up and get free access to our online logistics management dashboard.

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