Four Ways Shippers Can Optimize Their Cold Storage Operations

Author PhotoBlueGrace Logistics - August 30, 2021

Cold storage and transportation are growing steadily, and the industry must adapt the supply chain to its new regulations and needs.

What This Blog Is About:

  • The current status of cold storage and transportation

  • Four essential tips to help improve cold storage and transportation in the supply chain

  • What are the current and future trends in cold storage and transportation

People turning to online grocery shopping is driving up demand for refrigerated warehouses, which are in short supply worldwide. Cold storage construction is projected to reach $18.6 billion in value by 2027 – an increase of 13.8 percent per year, according to consulting firm Emergen Research.

As per the current analysis of Reports and Data, the global refrigerated transport market was estimated at $14.8 billion in 2019 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.9% from 2019 to $23.1 billion by the year 2027.

What Are The Challenges Of Temperature-Controlled Logistics?

The cold chain in logistics is defined as a product handling process that guarantees that all transported goods are kept within a specific temperature range from the production phase to their delivery to the final consumer. Breaking the cold chain can lead to public health problems by opening the door to:

  • Premature deterioration of the merchandise
  • Loss of organoleptic properties (taste, appearance, etc.)
  • The proliferation of bacteria and microorganisms harmful to humans that reproduce more easily in relatively temperate environments

Avoiding a break in the cold chain is, therefore, one of the primary obligations of the logistics manager. Let’s see which products are exposed to this contingency and the weak points in the supply chain where extreme vigilance is necessary.

Fundamentally, there are three sensitive product categories that are under risk in the case of a hypothetical break in the cold chain:

  • Perishable foods, such as fruits and vegetables, or unprocessed or frozen meat and fish
  • Frozen foods, including both fresh and convenience foods
  • Thermolabile (heat altering) drugs, especially certain vaccines that must be kept refrigerated to ensure their effectiveness

Four Essential Aspects To Consider

The following trends are transforming the way of operating companies dedicated to cold logistics:

1.   Energy efficiency in the design of warehouses and points of sale

Containing storage and transportation costs is a common goal in all types of the supply chain. But, in the case of cold logistics, the need to maintain a controlled atmosphere and protect the continuity of the cold chain leads to more significant investments in warehouses and industrial vehicles or in final points of sale.

In the case of the design of cold stores, it starts from the reorganization of the space to prevent energy consumption from skyrocketing. For this, many companies opt for compact storage systems (especially if they have many pallets with few references), installations with self-supporting racks (which prioritize height), and insulating materials in the construction phase of the warehouse to avoid loss of temperature.

2. Comprehensive process control: temperature, traceability, and stock movements

The advance of perishable goods along the supply chain passes through critical points that threaten to break the cold chain. How to mitigate the risk that this entails?

Keep the temperature under control at all times:

shorter delivery times and trends in omnichannel logistics are also present in the cold sector, making it essential to control the conditions in which the merchandise is stored and transported. Hence, specialized sensors are used to collect and transmit this data to the corresponding software.

Ensuring rigorous traceability of goods:

RFID technology is becoming more and more prevalent in cold logistics due to the advantages it presents for the automatic identification of goods. These RFID tags contain essential information about the product (manufacturing batch, expiration, temperature, characteristics …) and communicate with the different software without the need for direct contact to read them.

Comprehensive process control:

poor stock management in cold logistics increases the risks that the merchandise ends up spoiling. Therefore, FIFO / FEFO rules have to be strictly adhered to from factory to consumer. New generation software has simplified the handling of vast amounts of information, and, in the case of the warehouse, WMS applications work as excellent stock control tools.

3. Maximum speed in cold logistics operations: automation

The use of automated systems in the warehouse has significantly improved agility and safety in handling perishable products in controlled atmospheres. To the versatile stacker cranes or pallet conveyors, the following solutions are added:

Pallet Shuttle: in combination with compact storage systems, the pallet shuttle speeds up stock replenishment and merchandise dispatch operations by saving movements for the operator.

Mobile shelving is used mainly in freezing chambers with medium and low rotation references, which are not frequently accessed. They compact the warehouse and ensure significant space and cost savings.

Voice picking: facilitates picking management in refrigerated warehouses where gloves can slow down the handling of reading and scanning devices.

4. Awareness and training for professionals to match

Despite new technological tools and organizational changes, there is one factor that we cannot ignore: professionals. Cold logistics requires workers who know the processes in detail and are highly sensitized to guarantee the cold chain from their position.

For this reason, training also plays a vital role in this challenge since new technologies increasingly demand digital skills from workers.

Where Is Cold Storage Going?

Bringing refrigerated products to their end-users in optimal safety and integrity is a task that is subject to many variables and requires continuous efforts and investments on the logistics service provider.

More and more countries, predominantly within the European Union, are enacting regulations that require timely knowledge of the origin and transport conditions of pharmaceutical and perishable products.

The fulfillment of these regulations and the changing demands of the consumers, who increasingly demand fresh and preservative-free products, put production and logistics companies under pressure.

Logistics service providers have to help their customers to comply with the regulations of the respective country in a cost-effective manner and, on the other hand, to deliver products to the end consumer on time and under the best conditions to keep the makers competitive.

To comply with this, efficient processes must be established, productivity improved, and safety guaranteed. Your best ally is technology.

From temperature sensors, control and location systems, warehouse automation, and blockchain to information transfer, technological advances serve to ensure the quality of goods, ensure their on-time delivery and reduce storage costs, improve batch traceability and ensure the integrity of documentation shared between the different actors in the cold chain.