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What is Cold Supply Chain?
What do you know about the Cold Supply Chain?
Once you walk into Walmart you can buy different kinds of fruits, vegetables, chilled products, dairy products, and fresh flowers which come to the market from different countries. The vaccines and the medicines in a hospital too come from numerous countries which save thousands of lives per day.
Have you ever wondered how fruits and vegetables travel around the world and are in the market without harming the freshness. And how the temperature sensitive medicines come from countries at a distance. This is where the importance of a cold supply chain comes into the game.
A cold supply chain is a supply chain that is designed to maintain the temperature of goods and materials within a certain range in order to preserve their quality and safety. Or in simple words, a temperature controlled supply chain.
We can define the cold supply chain as an interconnected process of manufacturing the products, store under the preferable temperature, and transporting around the world using several kinds of modes of transportation while keeping the preferred holding temperature to ensure the shelf life and the quality of perishables or temperature sensitive products such as chilled products, fruits, vegetables, medicine, vaccines dairy products, beverages, meats etc. under temperature-controlled environments until it reaches the final consumer points.
This is often necessary for the movement of perishable goods like food and pharmaceuticals, which need to be kept at a specific temperature to prevent spoilage or degradation of items.
The concept of the cold supply chain emerged in the mid of 19th century. The vehicles equipped with temperature-controlled chambers, or refrigerators were used as the storage and the means of transport in the cold supply chain, to provide door-to-door service to the consumers. With time, a cold supply chain develops to move the products which require to control of the temperature by using reefer containers.
Importance of Cold Supply Chain
The importance of cold supply chains in global trade must be talked about. As the global economy becomes increasingly interconnected, the movement of perishable goods around the world is becoming more common and critical to the success of many industries. In general, food items started to get spoiled above the 40 degrees temperature level. Hence, cold supply chains are essential to support temperature sensitive cargo movement and ensure that goods are transported safely and efficiently.
One of the major benefits of cold supply chains is their ability to support the growth of global trade. For instance, it is difficult to cultivate Bananas in European countries. Hence, they demand Bananas from tropical countries arising the demand for a cold supply chain. By enabling the safe and efficient transportation of perishable goods, cold supply chains can help to support the growth of industries such as agriculture, fishing, and pharmaceuticals, and can help to drive the growth of the global economy.
In addition, cold supply chains are also important for ensuring the safety and quality of perishable goods. By maintaining the temperature of goods within a specific range, cold supply chains can prevent spoilage and degradation and can ensure that consumers have access to fresh and high-quality products. This can help to support the growth and success of industries that rely on the safe and efficient transportation of perishable goods.
Further, cold supply chains help in reducing food waste and loss. Perishable goods, like fruits and vegetables, are often lost or discarded due to spoilage or other factors, such as damage or poor handling. By using cold supply chains to maintain the quality and safety of these goods, companies can reduce food waste and loss, and improve their environmental performance.
In addition, cold supply chains are also important for supporting the development and growth of emerging markets. Most of the developing countries rely heavily on the export of perishable goods like fruits, vegetables, and its products to support their economies. By using cold supply chains to transport these goods safely and efficiently, companies can support the growth of these markets and achieve an absolute advantage.
The cold supply chains play a vital role in supporting the growth of global trade and the global economy. And ensure the safety and quality of perishable goods.
Risks involved in the cold supply chain
1. Demand fluctuations
The unexpected changes in cold supply chain demand are high risks as the longer the period a product has to be kept in a cold supply chain high the cost of holding it to the company. Further, the possibility of products getting deteriorated is high. One good example is under extreme weather conditions demand for dairy products will be reduced. Thus, the manufacturers must keep the item in fresh condition until it meets its expiry date or be transported to the areas where the demand exists.
2. Problems arise at the retailer’s end
The cold chain continues until it reaches the consumer’s point. Once the cold chain items are delivered to the retailer. Lack of temperature controlling storage like refrigerators and control monitoring equipment are a few of the major issues arise at the retailer’s end.
3. Temperature fluctuations during the handling
When loading and unloading, the product will move in and out of zones of controlled temperatures thus losing its acceptable temperature within the cold chain. It includes the transactions that happen among the manufacturing plant, transport modes, storage and finally the consumer ends. Further, when it comes to transport, cargoes are moved from one place to another. As a result, unlike fixed temperature-controlled locations such as warehouses, goods experience different temperature levels. Additionally, a lack of professionalism in managing cold items and handling without competent workers will result in the risk of reducing the shelf life of the products and at some point, the product may become unusable.
4. Malfunctions or breakdowns in the equipment
One of the considerable risks is the failure and breakdown of the equipment that is set up for the control and monitoring of temperatures. Malfunctions and breakdowns could occur due to a lack of maintenance. Apart from that, the loss of power will also become a risk in the cold supply chain as it causes changes in temperature.
A minor change in temperature could cause products to deteriorate leading to a huge loss to the seller/buyer. In order to avoid the impacts of those circumstances, before shipping the items using cold storage the shipper and the carriers need to have proper communication in order to ensure the existence of the equipment that are required for the transport of the goods under the desired temperatures.
5. Poor packaging
To keep the optimum condition of the items, proper packaging is a must. And when it comes to the cold supply chain, there is a high possibility of the products getting wet and causing damage such as leakages, and spoilage to the product itself and to the other products.
By paying more attention to the above factors the stakeholder of the cold supply chains will be able to handle the cold chain with minimum interruptions and losses.
How to Manage a Cold Supply Chain
Under a malfunction of the cold supply chain, the quality and the freshness of the product may be lost. The cold supply chain helps to ensure the cold items are in a timely and efficient manner under the precious quality of the product. Within the cold chain, products should be kept, stored, and transported under specific controlled temperature conditions. For example, as an industry practice, the fruits like bananas should be kept under the temperature 13 °C -14 °C, otherwise, the skin of the fruit starts to discolour, and the edibility of the fruit fails afterwards.
In the contemporary world, there is more concern about technology-based novelty concepts. Cold chain management can be done through technologies like sensor technology in order to monitor the real-time information of the shipments.
Based on the distance of the transport, the time duration of the item kept at storage, and the meteorological conditions around the relevant place and the season of the particular country, the possibility of destroying the acceptable conditions of the product is high. In addition to that frequent loading and unloading may cause variances in the temperature and frequent monitoring of the temperature is essential.
In order to keep the temperature under a suitable level, it is mandatory to monitor and measure the supply and return of the air temperature, humidity level, slight warmness, and air leakages within the temperature-controlled facility from time to time. Further, international shipments are mostly transported by either sea or air transport modes, thus it is important to make sure the availability of the required equipment and the plugging facility during the voyage and the terminals.
Additionally, paying attention to the pickup, delivery, and transit time is necessary to make sure the perishable products are delivered on time to the market/customer.
By referring to all the above it is clear that cold supply chains act as driving forces of the world economy in terms of facilitating the moving of vital products around the world. Since the nature of cold supplies varies, it is mandatory to be on alert for the cold chain. Moreover, a failed cold supply chain could impact the entire world as it carries essential items like medicines.