How a Cold Supply Chain Handles the Summer Heat

The Cold Supply Chain

The efficient movement of cold storage commodities is difficult enough for carriers and shippers to deal with daily. Throw in the summer heat and you can see how moving items that require cold temperatures can be difficult to manage.

When the summer season arrives, a slew of additional hurdles pop-up. And when that happens, it is "all hands on deck" to pull it off properly. The cold supply chain requires multiple stakeholders to work together from manufacturers to distributors and the carrier.

In this blog post, we’ll explain a few of the hurdles associated with summertime temperature-controlled freight. We will also outline a few tips for shippers to stay ahead of potential pitfalls, reduce shipping delays, and protect their cold storage commodities.


Higher Stress on Reefer Containers

In the ‘good old days’, shippers would stack blocks of solid ice in an enclosed container and call it good. This wasn’t a very good way of moving perishable products, but it was often the only option available.

Today’s technology has introduced more efficient refrigeration systems that work on a closed loop, meaning they don’t expel refrigerant into the atmosphere and are easier to maintain temperature control. However, just like your homes AC system, when the temperatures increase, the AC needs to work harder to remove heat from the air – so the temperature is maintained.

While most reefer containers are built to maintain temperature quite well, they are not perfect. In fact, the constant heat (or more accurate – direct sunlight) causes outside panels to increase heat, which then seeps into the inside. This gradually increases the internal temperature, and thus, causes the refrigeration system to work harder.


Increased Maintenance Costs to a Cold Supply Chain Happen More in the Summer

The extra heat during summer also leads to additional maintenance – especially with refrigerated or frozen shipping containers.

The refrigeration systems that keep shipping containers at a constant temperature simply work harder as the outside temperature increases. This leads to carriers having to increase the routine service in order to reduce damage or breakdown.

In the winter season, if a reefer unit breaks down on the road, the carrier has some time to get the container to a depot to be swapped out. As the temperature increases, the time gap between cold to above the danger zone of bacteria growth is significantly reduced.


Increased Lead Time and Organization

Another reality of summertime cold storage is that shipping and receiving schedules are susceptible to a wide variety of delays.

Many warehouses, depots, and retailers use the summer to complete maintenance or construction projects to improve their facilities. Not only do they do this to prepare for the summer heat but it is also a daily concern.

This reality of daily business operation causes all shippers to become more proactive about their shipments. While dry goods can sit in a container for a few days, this isn’t the case with frozen products.

There are multiple containers that can be plugged into an industrial electrical outlet to maintain the temperature – but this isn’t an effective plan.

Shipping in the summer with cold supply chain movements simply involves a bit more planning to ensure on-time delivery, reduced delays, and efficient storage of commodities to reduce the potential of damage.


A Cold Supply Chain Experiences Increased Shipping Volumes During the Summer

Do you know what items sell more frequently at grocery stores during the summer months?

If you answered ice cream and frozen foods, you’d be 100 percent correct. These two food segments notice significant volume sales increases from Memorial Day through Labor Day in the US.

Whether it’s due to the extra heat, or more kids being home during summer, these frozen food items simply sell more this time of year.

For shippers, this increases volume and more cold storage shipments. If you are caught off-guard for the increased sales, it can easily back up your freight and cause undue delays.


Final Thoughts

The cold supply chain has a lot of moving parts. Each partner must work together to efficiently plan and move their refrigerated freight. Furthermore, they must accomplish this while summer heats threaten the integrity of the cooled container.

One resource that all shippers have at their disposal is the third-party logistics company. The modern 3PL has a solid understanding of cold supply chain movements and the problems that summertime shipping represents.

If you’re a shipper of cold commodities and want to reduce issues this summer, contact Redwood Logistics today.