The cold chain. It’s your usual supply chain, but with temperature control thrown in. While adding one more element may not seem like a big deal, keeping freight at a particular temperature adds a whole new level of challenges and expenses for shippers.
The items that circulate through the cold supply chain are typically perishable, like vegetables, fruits, or meats (think of anything you put in your refrigerator or freezer) or pharmaceuticals. Keeping them cool is a red hot business. Cold chain logistics is growing by leaps and bounds - some estimates put it as high as 17.9% compounded annual growth rate through 2026. By then, the market value of cold shipments could reach $585 billion.
But as one might imagine, it can be a huge problem when something goes wrong with these shipments.
At Able Freight, we’ve been handling cold shipments for over a quarter of a century. We’ve been around the block a time or two and seen just about everything that could go wrong in cold chain shipping.
Here are a few of the problems that we learned to avert:
1) Temperature Variance - This one sounds almost too obvious, right? But as simple as that sounds, addressing it is one of the biggest challenges in the cold chain. When raw meat or a vaccine stays out of its proper temperature range for too long, it can ruin the product. Loading and unloading, shipment delays, or faulty equipment can render a shipment ruined.
Some of these obstacles can’t be avoided, but with proper planning, they can be mitigated. Route planning and careful record keeping are a huge help, along with proper packaging. This brings us to our next challenge...
2) Improper Packaging - The math is straightforward. Mishandling products equals damaging or destroying them. Think microbial growth, unwanted condensation, frozen products thawing out or contaminating.
If you want to avoid those unsavory outcomes, there’s a pretty simple solution. Make sure you or your provider is well versed in packaging best practices! How are the freezers looking? Do they know how to handle dry ice? Do loads get monitored on their journey?
3) Lack of Documentation - While poor record-keeping won’t directly cause temperature excursions, they can increase your risk of missing one. That means getting an unpleasant surprise about damaged drugs or foodborne illness upon arrival.
The solution here is to have a system to ensure that your t’s are crossed, and your i’s are dotted. Or, you could outsource it to a software solution, like DataHub.
4) Unexpected Delays - Traffic jams, equipment breakdowns, and layovers are a fact of life, but they can be a big problem for cold chain shipments. There are so many sources of unplanned delays, and often, they’re out of a carrier’s control.
As much as we would all love to control the weather, we aren’t there yet. But what we can do is optimize routes, pay attention to weather reports, have contingency plans, and monitor traffic.
5) Regulations - These are constantly changing and can get very complex. Every country in the world has different standards. There’s no one governing body that regulates this. And if you mess it up, your freight could get seized.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to wrangling international standards, but in our experience, technology helps a lot. Maximizing your visibility, keeping documents in one central location, and temperature monitoring can avoid a lot of headaches.
With the demand for cold chain logistics only increasing, it helps to partner with a logistics company that knows its way around. Able Freight will be able to help you around with your cold chain needs; contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any inquiries!