Perishable foods, such as meat, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, among other farm produce, can be enjoyed only when fresh. Therefore, as a business owner or manager, you want to make every effort to deliver them as fresh as possible to the consumer. Besides, the shelf-life of your products, consumers demand the freshest ingredients, making it vital for you to deliver on that demand if you're going to remain afloat in the ever-competitive market.
Flowers, special chemicals, and pharmaceutical products, like fresh farm produce, are also classified as perishable goods, hence why they demand a quality climate-controlled delivery service. Therefore, a strict cold chain is essential in transporting these time, temperature, and packaging sensitive products.
What Are Perishable and Refrigerated Goods Logistics?
These are transportation measures put in place to ensure optimum quality and freshness of perishables and refrigerated goods from source to destination, regardless of distance. These logistics typically cover everything from:
- Controlling temperatures and humidity inside refrigerated trucks, thus preserving the original quality and integrity of the product.
- Providing optimum transportation mode and time, ensuring the cold chain remains unbroken.
- Ensuring convenient and product-specific packaging and storage to retain product quality.
Factors to Consider for Refrigerated Transport
When transporting perishable food or other refrigerated goods (pharmaceuticals, flowers, or chemicals), several factors should be considered, including:
1. Transport Type
Some of the cold chain technology employed in refrigerated transportation include:
- Refrigerated containers: Maintain an optimal holding temperature using a non-mechanical cold source.
- Freezers: Keep products at low temperatures using cold production mechanisms.
- Isothermal equipment: Comprises insulated doors, walls, floors, and ceilings that limit heat exchange between the warehouse's interior and exterior or truck's interior and exterior.
- Reefers: A refrigerated or frozen trailer attached to a truck.
2. Packaging & Storage
Perishable goods are likely to spoil, decay, or become unsafe if not stored at specified temperatures. Microbial growth occurs at an optimum temperature, generally 20 to 35 degrees Celsius. Therefore, perishables should be packaged using:
- Dry Ice: Ideal for shipping frozen items.
- Gel Packs: Preferably for pharmaceutical or medical shipments.
- Liquid Nitrogen: Recommended for biological cargo; organs, and tissue
- Eutectic Plates: Uses cold plates that can be reused repeatedly.
- Quilts: These are insulated to maintain a constant temperature and are wrapped around specific products or placed over them.
Perishables can be transported by road using refrigerated trucks, rail, and sea, where refrigerated containers with air conditioning are used.
The most recommended transport method is by air. Not only is it a more time-effective method, but with the heightened quality supervision measures, it's unlikely to have undetected faults in packaging or handling.
Note: The transport method determines the time taken from source (farm/warehouse/factory) to destination, inherently influencing the packaging and storage method.
New Technologies in the Field of Cold Chain Logistics
Technology is highly dynamic, and cold chain management isn't any different. It requires a high level of maintenance at all levels, from warehouse refrigeration systems to climate-controlled trucks, and finally, frozen distribution centers. Some key technologies that boost the efficiency of cold chain services include:
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: This has helped overcome inventory management, quality and safety, pricing, and cost inefficiencies. At the same time, AI and ML have driven great realizations in optimization, predictive analytics, error reduction, fraud prevention, and warehouse management.
- Internet of Things (IoT): With this technology, you can monitor the products in transit while keeping tabs on their temperature and humidity levels.
- Robotics: Robots have proven helpful in managing inventory from the warehouse to the shipping zone. This has dramatically improved effectiveness, speed, reliability, and accuracy.
- Packaging Innovation: The pandemic saw an increase in online purchases of groceries and prescriptions. This has resulted in the innovation of cold chain packaging solutions.
Can You Do It Alone?
On a smaller scale, it's possible to purchase a refrigerated van and fit it with the necessary equipment to make your deliveries. However, not all delivery situations have such limitations to be solved by the smaller vehicle sizes. For bigger jobs, the possibilities open up. If you are delivering large quantities, you might want to consider outsourcing the services of a third-party logistics partner.
Along with handling transportation, you also have to have the resources for shipping and storage. Keeping your products fresh from start to finish requires a larger amount of resources than some businesses have. It’s important to look at the whole logistics process when deciding if you can do it on your own or not.
Select the Best Transportation Partner
Third-party logistics partners' primary role is outsourced order fulfillment and transportation operations. It's important to choose a logistics and transportation company that understands your needs and is familiar with the products you need to ship. This ensures they'll be strategic in ensuring the quality of the product remains at its optimum level.
A good perishable goods logistics company isn't necessarily the cheaper option. Trust is the foundation for good business relations. It's therefore essential that you take your time to ensure you get the right partner. You can consider the following:
- What is their level of expertise?
- Capability and adaptability. Is your partner able to handle your ever-changing needs?
- What does their track record look like? You could talk to previous clients to get their opinion.
- What is the state of their working equipment (hygiene levels)?
- Average delivery time?
- Is their working staff familiar with the equipment used and with transporting perishables?
- How clear is their communication/support with clients?
- Disaster management. What measures do they have in place to handle emergencies?
- Are they up-to-date and employ the latest technologies in cold chain management?
- Can they integrate with your business software?
Acquire a Good Insurance Cover
The logistics around perishables and refrigerated goods and their transportation are costly. Despite being a lucrative business, the losses incurred if the goods perish/spoiled along the way can be huge.
Therefore, it's recommended you get insurance coverage for the purchase order in such an event. With an adequate insurance policy, businesses will have financial support and will not have to risk the economic burdens if products are delivered in poor condition. Notwithstanding, with proper cold chain services, such an event can be mitigated, ensuring overall satisfaction for merchant and consumer.
Common Industries That Use Perishable Logistics Services
Some of the industries that use perishable logistics services include:
- Agricultural produce
- Cosmetics Industries
- Poultry and meat processors
- Dairy producers
- Industrial chemical companies
- Beverage Processors
- Medical supplier
Government Policies Around Cold Chain Services
Government and independent agencies have put measures to ensure adherence to timing, packaging, and temperature regulations. The goal is to effectively transport products from source to destination at optimum quality standards. Some of them include:
- US Customs
- Federal Drug and Food Administration (FDA)
- International Air Transport (IATA)
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
- Department of Transportation (DOT)
Take Your Perishable and Refrigerated Goods Logistics to Another Level
With 20+ years of experience with these products and cold chain services, Smart Warehousing boasts special temperature controlled warehouses and our own dry ice produced on-site. We are your one-stop for all your cold chain-related needs. Contact us today to learn more and how we can assist you.