What is the Difference Between Cold Supply Chain and Normal Supply Chain?

Cold Supply Chain and Normal Supply ChainDid you know that less than 100 years ago moving cold-storage freight more than 50 miles was a calculated risk? The cold supply chain in the past was comprised of cargo containers filled with blocks of ice, that would hopefully last the journey before melting. Times sure have changed. Today’s cold supply chain utilizes advanced technology to control the temperature inside the cargo container within a tenth of a degree.

The cold supply chain in 2018 moves perishable-commodities or items that need to be stored in temperature-controlled containers across the world each day. Doing so reduces the growth of bacteria, contamination and keeps cold items safe for consumers to use. While there are some similarities, there are a few ways that the cold supply chain is different than the normal supply chain.

Cold Supply is Has More Moving Parts

Moving freight that requires temperature control involves multiple moving parts to work seamlessly. The normal process of moving freight is simple – plan the route, load the container, move the product, and deliver to the customer. When products require temperature controls like reefer or frozen shipments, each phase of shipping involves multiple additional steps.

Here are a few of the ways that the cold supply chain is different.

Planning: When a cold storage shipment is planned, the shipper and carrier must work together to ensure they have the right equipment to transport the goods to its destination. The biggest hurdles exist with international shipping, where in most cases, the products being shipped will require movement to different containers. Carriers must also ensure their shipments comply with food safety standards, to reduce the growth of bacteria, spoilage, and ensure the product is delivered on time.
Loading: Most LTL carriers maintain cold-storage depots that permit them to keep products within their ‘danger-zone’ of temperature tolerance. Once the shipment is ready for movement, carriers must work quickly to load cargo onto temperature-controlled containers.
Movement of Freight: The cold supply chain needs to move efficiently. While today’s cargo containers are built better than ever, it’s still a reality that the longer cold storage products are on the road, the more opportunity for damage to the freight exists. Shippers and carriers also need to work closely with the recipient to ensure they are available for deliveries to reduce shipping delays.

More Documentation Needed with Cold Supply Chain Shipment

A reality of the supply chain with cold or regular shipping is documentation. But the cold supply chain throws multiple variables in the mix – mainly due to extra regulations. The Food Safety Modernization Act as established by the FDA provides shippers and carriers with controls required for the safe movement of cold-storage food. DOT and FDA requirements also ensure that carriers maintain temperature control logs to document the temperature of their cargo containers – in most cases every hour. If a carrier is pulled over by a police officer, and they do not have this temperature log filled out accurately, multiple fines and possible commercial shipping license suspension may occur.

Mistakes with Cold Supply Chain Movement Impacts Public Health

When a cold storage commodity is moved through the supply chain, failures to maintain temperature-control can impact public health. Specifically, there are two areas where cold supply chain shipments can cause harm to the general public if not correctly controlled.

Medical Products: Every year, pharmaceutical companies develop medication and vaccines that require storage at certain temperatures in order to maintain their effectiveness. Some of these products include life-saving produces like insulin for diabetics, vaccines, and antibiotics for serious infections.
Food Products: Perishable products like produce, dairy, meat, and frozen foods make up 25% of the total supply chain across the globe. Keeping these products within their ‘danger-zone’ of temperature storage helps to reduce the growth or spread of bacteria. Most food-borne illness issues you hear about on the news are caused by lapses or mistakes within the supply chain.

While moving products from one location to another is a relatively straightforward process, the cold supply chain simply has more moving parts. The biggest issue that new cold-commodity shippers deal with is understanding the excessive regulations and paperwork control involved in this segment. If you’re a shipper who wants to learn more about how to successfully navigate the cold supply chain, contact a professional and experienced 3PL, who can help improve your cold supply operations.