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Characteristics that distinguish an efficient cold chain

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Efficiency in supply chains depends on the accurate movement and storage of goods, inputs, and raw materials. Supply chain managemet is key to the functioning of economies. Nevertheless, when it comes to the logistics of food and/or perishable products, it becomes especially important. 

For perishable foods whose quality and expiration date could be affected by environmental factors, the logistical efficiency of your supply chain is particularly significant, as any deviation can lead to product loss. This is why it is imperative to monitor cold chains 24/7: any deviation from the standard procedures can result in losses for everyone involved. 

Losses resulting from breaks in cold chains are considerable nowadays: the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-third of the food produced in the world ends up in the garbage, and 40% of this waste occurs at different points in the supply chain before reaching the hands of the consumer.[i]

In addition to the economic loss caused by the waste of products due to the failure to guarantee proper temperatures, it is also crucial to consider the impact on the brand if it fails to satisfy the customer demand or sells a damaged product. Failure to maintain a cold chain can affect the product’s organoleptic properties and, in extreme cases, it can even cause a health risk to the population.

At maxiaNET, we have identified some basic characteristics that distinguish an efficient cold chain:

  • Temperature monitoring system

First of all, in any cold chain, at least one temperature monitoring system should be available 24 hours a day. There are several temperature monitoring systems available, from the simplest ones that measure the air conditions inside the transport vehicle or storage to more complicated systems capable of measuring the voltage change of a thermal variation. For monitoring the storage of sensitive goods, there are systems that use infrared sensors to measure the impact of workers’ body heat on the handled products.

The most important thing is to ensure constant, real-time access to this information during all supply chain stages. 

  • Pre-season report

As part of the processes that must be documented during the cold chain stages, it is essential to have a record of the equipment used (such as the vehicle used to transport the product) and its temperature before, during, and after delivery. This information will help complying with the proper process required for each product, from those that need immediate cooling to those that require a gradual or interval cooling process.

  • GPS tracking

Succesful cold chains also provide a geolocation tracking method capable of reporting the real-time location of the goods. GPS technology in combination with sensors that provide thermal information can help identify the exact time and place at which a temperature deviation occurs, alerting those responsible for the product to take immediate action and prevent damage to the goods. 

  • Specialized talent. 

Skilled human capital is essential to achieving efficiency in a cold chain. Experience is key on guiding the supply chain through periods of adaptation and transformation derived from changes in the social context or the emergence of innovations. Having cold chain professionals handling the cold chain is as fundamental as implementing continuous training schemes and fostering a culture of collaboration and teamwork. 

The “Supply Chain Efficiency” study, published by Deloitte in 2017, emphasized that 61% of companies identify the issue of skilled labor as one of the main challenges for the supply chain; however, only the logistics industry sees training as necessary for their growth plans.[ii] 

The constant development of human capital must remain a priority since it is the only way to maintain fluidity during all phases of the chain, a task that requires the coordination of different teams, generally belonging to multiple service providers.

  • Compliance with current regulations

There are regulations regarding the correct handling of frozen or refrigerated food and beverages that cold chain companies need to follow. In addition to the local legislation in each country, there are some standard procedures recomended by international organizations, such as the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) certification and the ISO 28000 standard, which focuses on safety and risk prevention. 

Although these five points should be a standard requirement in a supply chain, especially in a cold chain, not all suppliers comply with these minimum requirements. Hence the urgency of making progress in education. As the demand for service becomes more informed, suppliers will be obliged to have the necessary technologies and comply with the established regulations. 

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to ensure that consumers receive their favorite product in the best possible conditions. 

[i] FAO, Technical platform on the measurement and reduction of food loos and waste, 2019. Consultado en mayo 2022.

[ii] Deloitte, Eficiencia en la Cadena de Suministro, 2017. Consultado en mayo 2022.

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