Cold supply chain logistics is among the industry’s more complicated shipping challenges. Properly transporting the world’s perishable food and medication requires intricate planning, preparation and execution.
It’s happening every day on a massive scale, however, cold supply chain logistics is most common in the food and bio-pharmaceutical sectors. Those industries alone accounted for $35 billion of cold supply chain logistics business in 2017.
Value of the bio-pharma cold supply chain logistics industry is expected to reach $16.6 billion by 2021, up from $12 billion in 2015.
Many considerations go into safely shipping these materials, not least of which is keeping them at an optimal temperature. From frozen salmon to chilled flu vaccine, entire shipments representing thousands or millions of dollars could be lost without the proper maintenance.
What disrupts temperature in cold supply chain logistics?
Two major factors affect products shipped along a cold supply chain logistics line: enclosure — what larger structures the product sits inside while in transit — and exposure — the environmental elements to which it is subjected.
Enclosure: Consider every step along the cold supply chain line and where the product will be. Will it start in a room-temperature tractor-trailer and be loaded onto an oven-hot metal shipping container? Will it spend time in refrigerated storage at a warehouse? Any of these factors can affect the temperature.
Exposure: Think about exposure after you consider enclosure. If product is transferred from a tractor-trailer to a shipping container, will it sit on the dock in the hot sun for a period of time in between? What season is it at every location along your cold supply chain route? Unexpected delays could mean product needs additional support to keep it cold.
Maintaining temperature along the cold supply chain
Appropriate packaging is important for any shipment and it’s critical in cold supply chain logistics. Temperature-controlled packaging allows companies to customize the temperature they need to maintain along the way.
3 Types of Temperature-Controlled Packaging (TCP)
+ Active TCP uses a refrigerator or other cooling system, powered by a lithium battery.
+ Passive TCP includes ice packs, gel packs, dry ice, liquid nitrogen and other items.
+ Hybrid TCP leverages both active and passive TCP.
Choosing an experienced cold supply chain logistics vendor is another way to ensure materials stay at the optimal temperature throughout transit. Air freight, ocean freight and ground transportation professionals with a background in working within cold supply chains will have the knowledge and systems for successful shipments.
The best cold supply chain logistics vendors offer temperature sensor monitoring. Wireless sensors constantly monitor the temperature of a specific item of freight, sending an alarm if it drops below a prescribed level. Real-time supply chain tracking will alert the shipper and cold supply chain logistics vendor, so they can take corrective action.
Cold supply chain labeling, documentation and customs
The nature of their freight typically makes cold supply chain shipments the subject of greater governmental regulation. In addition to more extensive labeling requirements, extra documentation is required for export and import of refrigerated and cold goods.
Customs delays can be common — and far more financially damaging — with temperature-sensitive goods moving along a cold supply chain. Companies must prevent unnecessary delays by thoroughly vetting each shipment’s customs documents before it leaves the loading dock.