Why is the cold chain so challenging?

Each type of product, according to the sector and its needs, has its specific challenges when it comes to route planning and transportation.  One of the most prominent are the challenges of the cold chain, which is necessary to supply and distribute products that are often essential, such as fresh food and medicines.

Lately, there has been a growing trend towards healthy consumption, i.e. fresh and frozen products whose demand requires better planning and management of their distribution. But what is the reason for this rigorous planning and what are the requirements for successful distribution in refrigerated transport?

To do this, we need to take a look at the challenges and risks to the products transported by the cold chain and why so many measures are necessary.

Rigorous temperature maintenance

All goods that are affected by changes in temperature and may even pose a risk for consumption have very strict regulations for storage, handling and transportation. In general, perishable foods, frozen foods and heat-vulnerable medicines are those that are part of the cold chain, i.e. goods that have biological and/or chemical components.

It is known that the ambient temperature (from 15º to 40º) is a breeding ground for bacteria and microorganisms. But, below 15º their growth slows down to 4º - 0º and, between -4º and -7º, their growth stops completely. In addition, the range of 30º and 6º promotes the ethylene hormone, responsible for the ripening of fruits and vegetables. But it is not until -18º that food is prevented from turning brown, which is why it is the standard temperature of the international cold chain.

Without forgetting that, within the challenges of the cold chain in the pharmaceutical sector, certain drugs lose their effectiveness when exposed to room temperature such as vaccines. In the case of others, like food, they can generate bacteria and other microorganisms that would cause the opposite effect of the medicine.

Critical cold chain breakage points

Apart from the fact that these goods must be kept at the right temperature, there are circumstances in which the cold can be altered, known as critical points. It is important to recognize them along the cold chain and study the necessary measures to minimize their impact, as this is one of the most important challenges of the cold chain.

The four critical phases in which cold storage can be affected are loading and unloading, storage, transport and sale. In loading and unloading, it is very important to handle goods quickly to minimize exposure to ambient temperature.

While in storage, transportation and distribution in stores and premises, good machinery, facilities, vehicles and good preventive maintenance must be available to anticipate failures and avoid product deterioration. So training and even technicians and other specialized personnel are required to gain knowledge about the peculiarities of this supply chain.

Conductor de camión abriendo la parte trasera del remolque para descargar la mercancía. retos de la cadena de frío

High maintenance and transportation costs

As we have seen, the fact that temperature-controlled products require a great deal of effort and investment of specialized equipment gives the idea that their budget in supply chain operations is very high. It is even much more than for other essential and perishable products such as hygiene products and dry foods.

Distribution of refrigerated goods is twice as costly as dry food and up to four times more expensive than transporting frozen goods. For this reason, the cold chain seeks to find the most efficient routes for products to arrive in the shortest possible time while maintaining their quality, making route optimizers are indispensable solutions for the cold chain.

Improved product traceability and documentation

One of the points of the cold chain that is not so well known are the hidden costs that such a use case has in logistics. Among them are those caused by delays, due to delays at the time of loading, missing or incomplete documentation. Even the timeliness of orders can be affected by out-of-control actions, such as delays in inspections by the authorities in charge.

Therefore, a type of merchandise where setbacks are more inconvenient, such as temperature maintenance costs, it is essential to implement improvements in traceability in order to document its entire journey: origin, transfer process and destination. This streamlines all picking activities for specific batches.

Conclusion

Maintaining low temperatures on goods involves more expense and effort than other types of goods without this requirement, as a small error can easily lead to product spoilage or higher than expected costs. For this reason, this type of supply chain is one of the most in need of advance planning to minimize delays and employ rigorous maintenance of facilities and equipment, whether refrigerators for an active cold chain or isothermal containers for the passive cold chain.

At Hedyla we adapt our software to any type of supply chain, taking into account all the constraints it usually has along with the option to apply your own for the user.

1 thought on “¿Por qué la cadena de frío tiene tantos retos?”

  1. Yup, thanks for reminding us that we must be committed to the costly expenses required to upkeep refrigerated transportation. Speaking of, my neighbor wants to import so many fresh fruits from Adelaide next month. Maybe he can talk to a haulage operator for further arrangements.

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