ExecutiveChronicles.com | Key Factors for a Reliable Cold Chain | Most people are familiar with what a supply chain is. The logistics of getting goods from Point A to Point B have gained nearly universal understanding over the last few decades. The term ‘cold chain’, however, is less familiar to the average person.
A cold chain is a logistics process for handling certain products or raw materials that must be handled under very specific environmental conditions. Keeping these goods at precise temperatures, humidity levels, or pressure environments is critical to keep them safe, effective, and consistent.
The more businesses understand environmental effects on certain goods, the more need there is for a reliable cold chain. Here we will dive deeper into explaining a cold chain. We will also go through five key factors businesses must have to create reliable cold chains.
What is a “cold chain”?
Cold chain is the term used to denote a temperature-controlled supply chain. It is used in multiple industries but it is most frequently found in the food and pharmaceutical industries. In these industries, certain products must remain in a temperature-controlled environment in order to maintain their freshness, consistency, potency, or safety for use.
In the food industry, this includes items such as produce, frozen food, and seafood, as well as other products. In the pharmaceutical industry, many drugs only remain stable in certain environments, so maintaining the right temperature from production to consumption is very important.
Adding to this basic understanding of a cold chain, here are five factors that make cold chains more effective and reliable.
1. Sound temperature monitoring
It may seem obvious to most, but one, and perhaps the most important, aspect of maintaining temperature-controlled spaces within the cold chain is the ability to accurately and continuously monitor the temperature of these spaces.
In 2020, the best way to do this is through a network of internet-connected IoT devices known as data loggers. As Dickson notes here, a robust system of data loggers is critical when it comes to protecting temperature-sensitive assets. Data loggers monitor spaces and report precise environmental conditions to a central, cloud-based, remote monitoring system.
With this level of remote monitoring, logistical specialists have exact control over conditions in the cold chain. Monitoring conditions with data loggers and adjusting them from a central location is what makes for an effective cold chain process in the 21st century.
2. Uniform standards
Maintaining an effective cold chain is all about ensuring the integrity of the process from beginning to end. This should be intuitive but, especially in cold chains with a global scope, it can be difficult. Regulations and standards around the world differ from chain to chain, but all must be met.
A business must create well-defined uniform cold chain standards and monitor them in order to keep a product in an ideal environment during every step from manufacture to receipt by the last entity in the chain. Temperature ranges must be clearly defined and best practices must be established to meet these goals.
If standards are not spelled out and checks and balances are not put in place to meet them, products will be handled in different ways at the stops along the chain. This can increase opportunities for products to become damaged or unsafe, or to run afoul of governmental regulations, thereby leading to shutdowns, lost time, fines, or in worst scenarios, to products that do not work for or even hurt consumers.
3. Proper planning
Monitoring is important so that companies can see when issues arise within the cold chain. However, some of these issues can be avoided altogether through proper planning. Many elements affect the cold chain and when cold chain managers can avoid them, the whole process gets easier and more reliable.
Some of these issues are factors such as weather and time. Planning cold chain transportation and storage around extreme weather conditions puts less pressure on the equipment and technology that help run the chain. Likewise, assuring that products spend as little time as possible between production and consumption can help minimize issues as well.
Many technologies these days help improve planning. Artificial intelligence and machine learning programs can help logisticians better manage the flow of products through the cold chain. They can help planners adapt to changing conditions and create dynamic best practices that lead to better results.
4. Employee training
Much technology is available to companies that manage cold chains in order to make the entire process easier, more efficient, and less labor-intensive. In 2020, a massive human element is still involved in the cold chain. To deal with this and help minimize human error, cold chain companies must invest in proper employee training and development.
All employees involved in the cold chain process must be constantly trained on new technologies and systems. They must also be regularly evaluated to make sure they are following proper cold chain procedures.
When workers are given not just technology but also the right training on how to use it, coupled with the knowledge of how and why it is being used, only then will companies see the full benefits of these modern innovations.
5. Utilizing the data
As the cold chain has evolved from simple refrigerated trucks and warehouses to the full-blown smart supply chain we see today, one of the key things that has emerged are mountains of data produced by this process.
For every single piece of product that passes through the chain, data is generated. When this data is gathered and processed using analytics, companies can create a culture of continuous improvement that will serve to make the entire process smoother and safer.
Cloud computing gives every company the opportunity to gather and learn from the data generated in the cold chain. Massive servers and expensive technology are no longer required for data-driven insights into the cold chain process. Companies that are not using big data and analytics to make the cold chain more reliable are missing a huge opportunity.
Temperature-controlled supply chains have come a long way and so has our knowledge of the factors that make it work. When cold chain managers focus on the five aspects above, the process becomes much easier and the results become much greater which is a win-win situation for producers and consumers alike.