With the logistics sector constantly changing due to the introduction of new products, safety concerns, higher quality standards or technology, 3PLs and 4PLs are constantly changing their business models to incorporate these new opportunities. Each year, goods and products increase in sophistication, from food and beverages to pharmaceuticals. In order for a 3PL or 4PL to properly implement cold chain logistics, it needs to give careful thought and consideration to both its capabilities and limitations in the transporting of temperature sensitive goods.
Risk assessment is a huge factor that comes into play when a company is looking to implement cold chain logistics. If the company can identify points of weakness and put in place SOP, it can significantly reduce the risks associated with managing temperature sensitive products. The greater the number of touch points, the greater the risk of cold chain failure.
As many companies have seen, innovations in technology have played an increasing role in the cold chain. For many 3PLs and 4PLs, technology takes the guesswork out of the equation. According to a survey by Penn State’s C. John Langley Jr., and Capgemini, 75 percent of shippers said the logistics industry could benefit from better technology. Front-end technology provides un-biased, transparent tracking that streamlines, forecasts and simplifies the supply chain process for faster, uninterrupted service.
Another factor to consider is the staff’s ability to fully understand and properly use these new programs and software. Businesses must have in-house skills to manage the variety of items that are being transported each day in the cold supply chain. It is important to know that refrigerated products and produce not only require a specific temperature, but also high levels of humidity to stay fresh. Many of these cold supply chain systems have advanced monitoring and temperature control settings that, when not used to their full potential by staff, lower the quality of the items being handled.
It also is important to realize the extreme circumstance an employee endures while working in the cold supply chain. Employees must be given the proper clothing and gloves, as well as a reasonable schedule that controls the amount of time exposed to the elements.
In the cold supply chain, customers are looking for quality and consistency, rather than speed of delivery. Human interaction is necessary to monitor and document that proper benchmarks are hit and that scheduling is maintained. Something to note is that in different countries standards vary and expectations differ and the demand for cold supply chain perfection has transformed over time. Increases in the sophistication of products—quick-serve, ready-to-eat and pharmaceuticals—have led to more informed customers and higher standards.
Ron Atapattu, President & Founder of Overseas Cargo, Inc., has more than 30 years of experience handling supply chain management, distribution, transportation, inventory management and warehousing for some of the world’s most recognizable brands.