Smart Warehousing Dec 10, 2021 11:00:00 AM 10 min read

What Is Cold Chain Logistics?

For many years, cold chain logistics has been an essential part of transporting perishable food and supplies from one place to another. Temperature-sensitive goods must be shipped along supply chains just like any other product, and there’s a lot of science and technology that goes into retaining freshness while moving these items.

How do companies integrate cold chain logistics into their shipping processes, and what tactics do they use to ensure their food retain their quality?

What Is Cold Chain Logistics?

As many nations of the world have become more developed and living standards have improved, people are more aware of the need for fresh, quality products. Because of this, there is high demand for temperature-sensitive products to be transported over long distances safely.

Cold chain logistics, or temperature-controlled logistics, involves the safe, secure transportation of products by maintaining certain temperature and humidity requirements. To do this, cold chain logistics companies use advanced equipment and technology to ensure that the products you receive are fresh even after being transported long distances.

Cold chain operations must be applied to any product that’s considered perishable, such as:

  • Meat
  • Produce
  • Ice Cream
  • Flowers and plants
  • Medical supplies and pharmaceuticals

Managing the temperature of perishable products ensures that they are safe and high-quality from the point of origin, through the distribution chain, and finally to the consumer. But don’t let the name of cold chain logistics fool you; while many products must be kept at colder, sub-zero temperatures, others may need higher, warmer temperatures to preserve their quality and texture.

What Is the Importance of Cold Chain Logistics?

Besides providing quality and safe products to consumers, cold supply chain logistics also largely contributes to the economy and workforce. Quality products mean that consumers are satisfied, leading to higher demand and contributing to a growing economy.

Additionally, cold chain supply logistics gives people jobs since trusted and trained employees are needed at every step of the process. Personnel is required for warehouse jobs, distribution, transport, and truck driving.

If products like food and produce aren’t kept at the right temperatures, they can be subject to discoloration, textural degradation, bruising, and microbial growth. In these cases, these goods are not ideal for consumption and become wasted.
Overall, cold chain logistics is very important for protecting public health by ensuring all perishable products are high quality and safe for public consumption.

The History of Cold Chain Logistics

Cold chain logistics dates back many centuries to the 1700s and 1800s. In the late 1700s, the British used ice to transport fish to keep it from spoiling. A similar tactic was used in the late 1800s to transport dairy products from rural to urban areas.

Around the same time, Europe experienced a meat production shortage, so frozen meat was sent from places worldwide to help, such as South America and New Zealand.

The history of cold chain logistics proves that cold chain freight plays a huge role in international trade and market systems.

The Cold Chain Logistics Process

The process of cold chain logistics involves many steps, including production, storage at a production facility, transportation, and storage at the customer’s warehouse. Each facility and method of transport must be temperature-controlled, and all staff should be well-trained on cold chain procedures.

Here are some common procedures of the cold chain logistics process:

  • Variations in Demand: Logistics companies must consider arrival time and state of arrival. If products are in demand, certain companies may request them as needed.
  • Load Integrity: This part of the process involves any required technology needed to maintain the temperature of shipments and how goods are packed and packaged.
  • Transport Integrity: In combination with refrigeration technology, staff members must ensure that the temperature-controlled environment remains intact during transport.

Technology

Technology is required in cold chain logistics to ensure products are delivered fresh. Not only is there a need for a modern Warehouse Management system that can handle cold chain requirements, but Facilities also need to be temperature-controlled, including warehouses and transportation. This is done by using modern heavy-duty refrigeration systems that help to maintain proper temperatures while goods are transported and stored.

Products do not spoil when temperatures cross a certain threshold; rather, fluctuating temperatures are what cause goods to spoil, bruise, or degrade. Several methods are used to refrigerate these products, depending on certain factors like seasonality and size of the shipment. These methods may include:

  • Dry Ice: Because of the properties of dry ice, it can keep products frozen for extended periods of time.
  • Gel Packs: These are mainly used for pharmaceutical or medical shipments.
  • Eutectic Plates: Cold plates that can be reused many times over.
  • Liquid Nitrogen: This method allows for biological cargo, like organs and tissue, to be transported and kept frozen for longer periods of time.
  • Quilts: These are insulated and can be wrapped around certain products or placed over them to maintain a constant temperature.
  • Reefers: This term refers to any semi, truck, or van that is temperature-controlled and provides air circulation.

A quality 3pl provider will have expertise in which type of freezing methods are best for the type of product and days in transit, planning for delays to ensure product integrity remains. At Smart Warehousing, we produce our own dry ice in house and have several frozen facilities nationwide to ensure 1-2 day shipping, making sure the product gets delivered in time. Over 80 companies from the food and beverage industry, trust Smart Warehousing with their frozen fulfillment.

Standards and Regulations

There are many regulations around cold chain logistics put into place by government agencies, including:

  • US Customs
  • International Air Transport (IATA)
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • Federal Drug and Food Administration (FDA)

Regulations and requirements from government agencies are put in place to ensure that products are shipped safely and effectively concerning timing, temperature, and packaging.

Besides federally regulated standards, many shipping companies also carry their own regulations to keep products of high quality for the consumer. Some standards they may hold typically center around packaging, product stability, transportation, temperature minimums, and monitoring. For example, Smart Warehousing has several facilities that have gone through AIB inspections. All of which have received a score of 900 out of 1000 or better.

Common Cold Chain Logistics Problems

Freight shipments can be largely impacted if there are problems with the cold chain logistics process. Cold chain storage and transport will be disrupted if drivers and other staff aren’t aware of potential problems that may arise.

Many common issues can arise with cold chain logistics, such as:

  • Inadequate Packaging: Products can become contaminated if they are packaged incorrectly, or packaging is damaged.
  • Product Quality: Produce and other food items must be cleaned, sanitized, and sorted correctly to remain high quality for the consumer.
  • Shipment Delays: Nowadays, shipping delays have become more common than they used to be. Unfortunately, these delays can have a huge impact on items that must be delivered in a certain amount of time to retain their freshness.
  • Missing Documentation: Cold supply chain management must be well-documented by all parties involved, especially by drivers or other personnel during transport. Recording temperature statistics and other data can help to ensure temperature-controlled conditions are adequate.
  • Climate Control or Other Temperature Issues: If the cold chain temperature fluctuates, goods are more likely to spoil. Extreme weather conditions can also impact deliveries, leading to faulty cooling systems and an excess of outside air entering the system.

Cold Chain logistics are a pivotal part of shipping and transporting goods, so they are safe for public consumption. Cold chain services at Smart Warehousing can ensure that all inventory received is temperature-controlled and hasn’t been spoiled or damaged. If you have any questions about the cold chain logistics services that we offer feel free to contact us at sales@smartwarehousing.com.