The Essex logistics company, Kuehl Speed, talk about the challenges of transporting perishable goods
Transporting temperature-controlled goods is full of challenges but the cool chain helps ensure that products reach their destination in optimum condition.
Transporting perishable items such as fresh produce, seafood, frozen food, chemicals and pharmaceuticals can be somewhat of a logistical nightmare. In order to arrive at their destination in the best possible condition, these items need to be kept at a low temperature throughout the logistics process, and any fluctuations in temperature could lead to the goods being spoiled, resulting in wasted products and loss of revenue.
In order to avoid this happening, perishable goods are transported using the cool chain system.
The cool chain (also referred to as the cold chain) is a temperature-controlled supply chain specialising in the storage and transportation of products that need to be maintained at a specific temperature or within a set temperature range. It involves a series of activities which maintain the desired low temperature – from refrigerated production, through to cold storage and distribution via temperature-controlled transport.
Advantages and challenges
The core idea behind the cool chain is that it remains unbroken, thus ensuring that the quality of the product is not compromised during any part of its journey. This helps to prevent the loss of perishable foods and as such can be highly cost-effective, enabling companies to minimise waste and protect their profits.
The cool chain also helps to ensure that food products are still fresh when they arrive at their destination, leading to customer satisfaction and, often, repeat business. And it’s not just food. Many chemicals and pharmaceuticals, such as vaccines, are temperature sensitive, and failure to transport them properly can have extremely dangerous consequences, so the cool chain in this instance is essential to public safety.
In short, the cool chain results in better product consistency and, ultimately, better product quality.
However, despite the obvious advantages, the cool chain is not without its challenges. When putting a cool chain in place, major decisions need to be taken in regards to packaging, monitoring and choice of transportation, as failure in any of these areas can have a big impact on the integrity of the product.
Another challenge facing exporters is the potential of experiencing delays at customs borders. Any unexpected delays can compromise the cool chain, so it’s important that companies take the time to understand local rules, regulations and environmental conditions.
Replacing the cool chain
So, with these challenges in mind, could the cool chain ever be replaced?
To our mind, the answer is ‘not likely’, or at least not anytime soon. Despite its flaws, the cool chain remains an effective system, and with the lack of any viable alternative it looks set to continue for some time yet.
Of course, the cool chain has seen various developments which have and will continue to evolve the process. In particular, the rise of automation and the use of smart technology have made a big difference to how temperature-controlled products are stored, handled and transported.
However, rather than replacing the cool chain these developments only serve to make it even more streamlined, reliable and cost effective, ensuring it remains the best and most efficient option for transporting perishable goods.