Cold Chain Logistics: Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them
IndraStra Global

Cold Chain Logistics: Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

By David Madden
Founder and President, Container Exchanger


Cold Chain Logistics: Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

The global supply chain is a massively interconnected network of freight trucks, planes, and ships moving goods all over the world. With the rise of e-commerce shopping, the logistics industry has rapidly expanded over the last few years to meet the continuing dramatic increase in the movement of goods. But within this web of transportation, the cold chain — aka the supply chain that moves temperature-sensitive goods around the globe — is dealing with issues of its own.

If these goods, such as perishable food items or life-saving medications, reach a certain temperature, it could spell disaster for those that consume these products and the company shipping them. Discover the modern challenges of cold chain logistics and what’s being done to combat them.

What Is Cold Chain Logistics?

Cold chain logistics refers to the transportation of temperature-sensitive items like food and medication from one location to another. The carriers responsible for transporting these goods also have an obligation to keep them at a certain temperature. Trucks, planes, and ships in the cold chain come with refrigerated compartments or carry insulated containers that keep goods chilled or frozen. Currently, refrigerated containers account for more than 50 percent of all refrigerated cargo transportation in the world. If these products get too warm, the entire shipment may go stale or become contaminated. 

In the regular supply chain, if a package arrives late, it’s usually nothing more than a minor inconvenience. But if a package is late in the cold chain, populations may get infected with food poisoning, and some people will have to go without their medication. As you can see, the stakes tend to be higher in cold chain logistics.

Common Challenges of Cold Chain Logistics

● Unpredictable Travel Times

When packages must be delivered on time at all costs, travel delays can have profound implications. Traffic on the highway, extra security at international borders and other delivery holdups can truly be a nightmare. As a result, businesses may lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, or the recipient waiting for their medication may experience myriad health problems. 

● Climate Control

Even with an arsenal of refrigerated trucks, keeping food and medication the right temperature isn’t always easy. Travel delays can lead to refrigeration issues. If drivers are making multiple deliveries, they’ll have to open and close the cargo door several times a day, releasing the cold air and changing the internal temperature of the truck. There’s also a chance some containers may be warmer than usual when they’re loaded onto the truck, offsetting the temperature of the rest of the cargo. When searching for the best shipping container for climate-controlled cargo, it’s definitely beneficial to find one that can stay insulated for multiple days since outside factors can contribute to a change in temperature. 

● Product Quality Assurance

With all these climate control issues in play, it can be hard to know for sure if a product has been properly refrigerated throughout the duration of the trip. While many cold chain delivery companies record a product’s temperature periodically throughout the trip, many do not. Even if the driver is continuously recording the temperature, there’s always room for error.

● Lack of Access

Maybe you can have a fresh pint of ice cream delivered to your door in just a few hours or less in the U.S., but that’s not true in the rest of the world. Delivering refrigerated or frozen items to remote areas remains a tall order. Many regions and third-world countries simply lack the infrastructure and equipment needed to safely move these items around. Roads and addresses may not be clearly marked. International disputes may halt the flow of goods across borders. And many countries do not have access to refrigerated trucks and planes. Currently, access to the cold chain is a luxury only for the few.

Improving Cold Chain Logistics

● IoT and Real-Time Package Updates

When it comes to quality control and making sure packages stay at the right temperature, drivers don’t always have time to log and upload temperature control data. That’s why the industry is starting to make use of smart packaging that automatically records the temperature of the package and uploads it to the cloud in real-time. Cold chain managers can monitor the temperature of a package every step of the way, regardless of whether the driver remembers to upload this information. If more companies adopt this technology, both manufacturers and consumers can enjoy more peace of mind.

About the Author:

David Madden
David Madden, Founder, and President of Container Exchanger. His passion and business is to save companies money through the use of used reusable and repurposed industrial packagings such as plastic and metal bulk containers, Gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, IBC totes, and industrial racks. 

He holds an MBA as well as a certificate from Daimler Chrysler Quality Institute for completion of six-sigma black belt training.



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DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this insight piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the IndraStra Global.