At the height of the Pandemic, consumers became intimately familiar with the fragility of the supply chain and the far-reaching impacts of delays and disruptions. (We’re looking at you, toilet paper.)
From looming product shortages to the rising adoption of online shopping, everyone from third-party logistics (3PL) providers to direct-to-consumer (DTC) food brands had to reevaluate their strategy and make crucial pivots to accommodate the changing marketplace. The goal: To drive efficiency, reduce costs, and strengthen customer satisfaction.
Even as we return to some semblance of “normalcy,” consumer trends and adjustments made to operating procedures as a result of COVID-19 are certainly here to stay.
Businesses with temperature-sensitive products, in particular, experienced a significant uptick in demand. From highly sophisticated products, like vaccines and biologics, to meal-prep kits and shipments of your favorite ice cream.
Of all the elements involved in logistics, the cold chain is the least forgiving. The process of storing, packaging, and shipping temperature-controlled goods is a delicate, intricate endeavor that needs to be handled with the utmost care. Implementing an effective cold chain management strategy is vital to a company’s success.
What Are Cold Chain Solutions?
An uninterrupted, efficient workflow across your entire cold chain is not just a distant objective your business should aim to reach. It’s imperative and integral to driving profitability and scaling your business in today’s competitive landscape, of course. But from production to distribution, preserving the quality and integrity of sensitive goods is necessary for meeting customer expectations, fostering customer loyalty, and strengthening your reputation as a brand.
Consider the kind of review no company wants to receive. A customer is eager to subscribe to a weekly meal service for the first time — until the package arrives on their doorstep, when they open the box to the stench of spoiled meat and wilted or rotting produce. Angry and frustrated? Of course! That customer immediately cancels the service (rightfully so!) and hops online to write a strongly worded review that urges people to stay far away from this company.
That’s a cold chain horror story. The takeaway? A sub-par or spoiled product will wreak havoc on your bottom line. The mere thought of sour yogurt or rotten fruit is cringe-worthy, but beyond the obvious, compromised perishables directly violate compliance and safety standards surrounding temperature-sensitive goods. If negative customer reviews aren’t startling enough, there’s the legal side to consider.
With the rapidly-expanding global cold chain market projected to surpass $583.1 billion by 2030 (the largest revenue share belonging to North America), there is a pressing need for businesses to adopt innovative cold chain solutions. Why? Increased demand and advancements in packaging and processing technology are raising consumer expectations and driving fierce competition in the marketplace.
From the cold storage facility you use to your fulfillment process, there is simply no room for error. Moving food or pharmaceutical products across the cold chain requires a robust logistical strategy, as well as a cold chain management solution that will quickly identify temperature anomalies and reduce the likelihood of unwanted setbacks. The right cold chain management solution can optimize operational output, increase visibility, and greatly reduce overall costs.
Key Components of Effective Cold Chain Management
1. Cold Storage Facility and Equipment
Maintaining product integrity through the entire fulfillment process requires specialized equipment, technology, and personnel. A warehouse that specializes in handling temperature-sensitive goods will have climate-controlled pick and pack stations peppered strategically across the warehouse floor to minimize movement and ensure product quality is preserved at all times.
The right cold storage facility will also have procedures in place to detect and circumvent temperature fluctuations. From temperature monitoring technology to specialized packaging, the goal is to house and move goods in a manner that’ll maintain product integrity and prevent unwanted microbial growth.
Whether you’re a B2B, B2C, or eCommerce business, managing high volumes of inventory is often a concern for many business owners. The key is identifying a cold storage facility that has implemented protocols to ensure the flow of goods in and out of the warehouse is done systematically.
In other words, you don’t want just any product sitting in the facility to be shipped out. Instead, you want a provider that factors expiration dates into the equation and effectively manages inventory flow. Things like lot control and traceability are two of the ways to stay compliant and maximize product quality.
2. Packaging and Logistics
As cold chain products are prepared and shipped out to their final destination, they’ll require special thermal packaging to safeguard goods from temperature changes. Prepping sensitive items with materials like dried ice, insulated foam, cold packs, thermal pouches, and similar packaging minimizes the risk of product contamination and helps increase energy efficiency.
In a similar vein, a good cold chain management solution is adept at transporting temperature-sensitive products. For instance, utilizing refrigerated containers is vital in maintaining the integrity of everything from meat to vaccines as they move through the delivery process.
3. Quick, On-Time Delivery
Quick and on-time delivery is an essential piece of upholding customer satisfaction and overall brand equity. At the onset of the pandemic, delivery time (and product integrity, for that matter) were of the utmost importance, as vaccines and other life-saving drugs were needed across the country. And while the virus is waning, this mindset and commitment to a fast, efficient, and cost-effective delivery still remains prevalent.
On-time delivery is a vital KPI that you should look to uncover when seeking a cold chain logistics solution that’ll successfully facilitate seamless product movements and adequately satisfy consumer demand.
4. Data & Customization
In today’s digital era, data is the lifeblood of maintaining operational efficiency. The right cold chain management solution should support cloud-based integrations to streamline processes, enhance visibility, and optimize order fulfillment.
What’s more, a valuable asset to look for in a cold storage facility partner is technology that delivers reporting data and insights. From the ability to remotely monitor temperature data in real-time, to analytics regarding your inventory, access to data is essential for avoiding production delays, promoting inventory stability, and decreasing expenditure.
Because every business has its own unique needs, it’s vital to find a cold chain management partner that’ll develop a customized solution that aligns with your specific goals and objectives. Whether you’re managing pharmaceuticals or food, a reliable cold chain partner will be able to comply with regulatory standards and oversee the preservation of products through the storage, fulfillment, and distribution processes.
Smart Warehousing is Your One-Stop-Shop Cold Chain Partner
Handling of temperature-sensitive goods is intricate and demanding, calling for a cold storage facility and fulfillment partner that has the technology, tools, and experience to help your company scale. In addition to Smart Warehousing’s 38 warehouses across the U.S., we have an over 1 million square foot facility in Missouri with temperature-controlled omnichannel fulfillment capabilities. And our track record speaks for itself: 99.2% of shipments that leave our warehouses arrive on time.
From our environmentally friendly KC caves to our specialized storage abilities and support team, we have expertise in housing and handling frozen goods, pharmaceuticals, meats, dairy, and other bulk food items. If you’re seeking a 3PL provider that has advanced data logging technology and the know-how to oversee your entire cold chain from start to finish, contact our team today!