Improving cold transport supply chain efficiency
Boosting efficiency in the cold supply chain is key if companies want to ensure the quality of their products and compete in the global marketplace.
Transporting items such as fresh produce, seafood, frozen food, pharmaceuticals and chemicals can be complicated. In order to arrive at their end destination in optimum condition, these items need to be kept at specific temperatures throughout the journey and, in order to achieve this, companies transport temperature-sensitive goods via the cold supply chain.
As the name suggests, the cold chain (also referred to as the ‘cool chain’) is a temperature-controlled supply chain which specialises in the storage and transportation of items that need to be kept at a specific temperature or within a set temperature range. It covers a number of activities, from refrigerated production through to cold storage and refrigerated transportation.
Supply chain challenges
While the cold chain is the most effective way of transporting perishable goods, the industry does face a number of specific challenges
. Perhaps the biggest of these is that there is a very small window for error. These types of products are very sensitive and even slight fluctuations in temperature due to unforeseen delays or breaks in the chain can lead to a shipment being spoiled and ultimately wasted.
Alongside this, there are several other growing challenges that the industry is having to adapt to, including supplying an increasingly global marketplace, a growing focus on sustainability and environmental performance, increases in regulation and, of course, Brexit, and all the implications that may have for European and international trade.
In order to remain competitive in such a challenging environment, it’s important that companies concentrate their efforts on improving the efficiency of their cold supply chain.
Energy efficiency is a key area of focus for companies operating in the cold chain. Temperature controlled transport and storage that is not energy efficient can be very costly and impact on performance and quality levels. There are a number of relatively simple steps companies can take to improve energy efficiency, including regularly checking machinery and equipment to ensure they are operating as they should, monitoring the temperature and acting swiftly if any discrepancies are noticed, and using more energy-efficient lighting in cold storage warehouses.
The role of technology
When it comes to improving overall efficiency, new technology has a vital role to play, and the temperature-controlled supply chain is increasingly incorporating new digital software solutions and secure cold technology into their operations.
A ‘smart’ cold chain offers managers real-time temperature and location data, enabling them to spot and mitigate any potential problems before they arise. And catching problems at an early stage helps to significantly cut down on instances of damage or waste. What’s more, by using smart technology and the ‘Internet of Things’, companies can seamlessly connect every step in the logistical process, allowing increased efficiencies and reduced costs.
The rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning also means that many processes can now be automated, helping companies to become leaner and more productive.
While technology is undoubtedly a key player in raising efficiency levels, employing more traditional, ‘lo-tech’ methods can also have a big impact. Good communication and information sharing – with employees, supply chain partners and customers – can help to cut down on mistakes and delays, as can providing comprehensive training for the cold chain workforce. Regular monitoring and inspection is also vital, enabling managers to identify potential issues and take the necessary steps to rectify them.
Experienced supply chain partners
Perhaps most important of all is the quality of the players in the cold chain. In order for the cold chain to be as efficient as possible, companies need to choose the best possible supply chain partners, opting for a well-established and experienced temperature controlled distribution company such as Kuehl Speed International
who are specialists in refrigerated transportation. By using a trusted company with a good reputation, companies can have much greater confidence that their products will arrive at their destination in peak condition.