Use of cold chains: an unfinished business


Eric Gómez

While most food and beverage manufacturers know the importance of incorporating cold chains into their supply chain, not all are willing to pay for required implementation costs: cold chain logistics are estimated to be 3% to 8% more expensive than dry logistics. There are, however, some steps that manufacturers could perform to take advantage of cold chains without dying in the attempt.

Experience tells us that the simplest and most effective way to achieve this is to integrate economies of scale. Companies can increase the benefits of implementing cold chains by sharing information, costs, and even routes and trucks, which can help reduce overall costs.

Of course, this might be easier said than done. In order to guarantee compliance with temperature requirements throughout the distribution cycle, a higher level of specialization is vital in all links of the chain. This includes all personnel, transportation, infrastructure, logistics management, and the technologies involved in the supply chain. 

Cold Chains in Latin America

What we have observed at maxiaNET is that certain actions are highly effective when sharing information and costs. The main one is increasing communication and transparency, both internally and with partners. 

Another effective action comes in the correct management of backhauls. There are many examples of how backhauls are not yet being managed correctly. For example, there are refrigerated trucks on established logistics routes from Tijuana to Cancun which return empty. Or big trailers transporting asparagus, brussels sprouts, potatoes, and lemons to the US which come back empty. Why not make this available capacity available to other manufacturers who need to transport products in the opposite direction? This will result in a win-win scenario for all the partners involved, an increase in the sustainability of the operations, and a reduction in the cost of the cold supply chain.

Achieving this level of synergy requires constant and transparent communication, as well as research work to identify other companies that use similar logistic routes in the opposite direction to establish partnerships. In our opinion, it should be a priority for all food and beverage manufacturers to identify the routes that could be used for backhauling and reach out to companies that might be interested in forming a partnership. 

The first step is to get process leaders to change perspective: to collaborate with other manufacturers in their industry and/or in other categories and achieve economies of scale together.

Building these fully collaborative economies of scale, would not only help to considerably reduce the cost of cold chains but would also contribute to reducing food waste and the carbon footprint of the supply chain. And at times when we are all looking to be more productive or save as much as possible, all actions add up: the important thing is to contribute to the business objectives from our own trenches.

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