Be in the Know…
Maintaining an effective cold chain has become a more visible and discussed topic lately, considering the need for cold storage in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Every part of a logistics business, from employee best practices to equipment selection and proactive maintenance, has to come together to safely move shipments between facilities without spoilage. That said, anytime is a good time to inspect your organization’s cold chain logistics processes and determine whether your operations are living up to their potential.
Transporting goods must be kept at a prescribed temperature adds extra challenges to your company’s logistics efforts. Making improvements to your cold chain logistics operations can represent significant long-term savings for your company, provided you make an effort to lock in these gains for years to come.
Why is Effective Cold Chain Logistics So Important?
Dealing with cold chain shipments adds additional requirements to transportation and storage requirements. Your personnel must focus on the same issues they face with any load — preventing damage to items in transit or warehouses, moving shipments efficiently between locations, and more — while also providing temperature controls at every step.
When you closely examine each step of your logistics processes, you may discover opportunities to implement equipment and practices that will deliver a high return on investment. This is especially relevant when considering cold chain transport because these efforts can impact your company’s financial performance.
Why is it so essential to craft a highly efficient cold chain strategy?
- Temperature control can have a significant budget impact: Cooling a refrigerated warehouse can be a very efficient process if you have taken steps to prepare for it. On the other hand, your business can also strain its budget if your air conditioning solutions are inefficient. Maintaining closed environments with high-speed doors between areas and well-maintained seals around loading dock doors is an excellent way to take some of the pressure off of your temperature control equipment. This, in turn, creates large-scale energy savings.
- Spoilage is an elevated risk factor: When the cold chain breaks down, and temperature-sensitive products are exposed to heat, whole shipments may be lost at once. This adds significant extra pressure on your personnel. Maintaining the right temperature in every refrigerated warehouse and vehicle and not letting shipments sit for too long are significant priorities for organizations maintaining an unbroken cold chain. The cost of failure may be considerable unexpected losses.
- Monitoring and visibility are at a premium: Keeping refrigerated goods cold isn’t the only part of an effective cold chain operation. Your organization also needs effective ways to monitor temperature at all times. This is important for both safety compliance purposes, verifying that your shipments have been kept cold and safe, and giving advance warning if there is a threat to the chain. This need for monitoring infrastructure means the cold chain requires extra investment if companies are to handle it responsibly.
With so much investment necessary and tremendous value riding on a cold chain logistics strategy’s success, your organization must carefully consider all related moves. Each step may contribute to creating a reliable cold chain infrastructure, from purchasing infrastructure and training employees to creating long-term maintenance strategies.
Risk Factors Affecting the Cold Chain
All it takes to disrupt a cold chain is one mistake. Once a shipment has been spoiled, whether by exposure to elevated temperature or any other kind of contamination, it’s a loss. This tension adds extra urgency to building strategies that will help your organization prevent any type of risk and disruption as often as possible. Significant risk categories include:
1. Equipment Downtime
Since it takes so much equipment to keep the cold chain running, it’s not surprising that a single asset failure can cause major disruption. What may be surprising is just how common these types of issues are. In fact, Food Logistics contributor Sanjay Sharma named cold chain technology trouble the most prominent cause of failure for companies in the cold chain industry.
Temperature control systems have multiple points of failure, including a lack of air circulation, a broken seal on a refrigerated container or specialized packaging, a power outage with no backup system, or any other damage.
When organizations lack visibility into their cold chain equipment’s suitability, age, and wear status, issues can be particularly disruptive and unpredictable. Maintaining assets effectively is challenging when employees are unaware of what they have within their warehouses and distribution centers.
2. Lack of Training or Preparation
Human error can be a cause of cold chain disruption. Even an organization with the right assets in place may suffer a cold chain management failure if mistakes occur in handling a cold shipment. When employees receive comprehensive preparation to work with temperature-controlled goods, the chances of such an issue decrease but aren’t completely eliminated.
Cold Chain Today indicated that there are many different ways for errors to occur in the shipment of temperature-controlled goods. Perhaps the team isn’t communicating well, or employees have low morale and motivation. Workers may not have received enough training in following protocols or using their equipment. Perhaps temporary contract workers unfamiliar with cold chain quality assurance requirements are handling a shipment.
There is a close relationship between cold chain management’s human and technological elements. When it comes to specific training and specialized equipment, employees can’t succeed with just one or the other — they need both.
3. Coordination Mistakes Between Supply Chain Partners
Sharma stated that differing standards and infrastructure around the world make it hard to ensure goods have been reliably refrigerated when they cross borders. Cold Chain Today added that since different regions have their own technology infrastructure, something as simple as a non-matching power socket can cause a small break in the cold chain and spoil a shipment.
Today’s companies are participants in a global economy. Everything from raw materials to finished products may cross borders often on the way to a final destination, and these extended journeys add new opportunities for breaks in the cold chain. Considering the losses associated with spoilage, it’s vital to vet new partner companies carefully.
As an organizational leader, it’s up to you to ensure your business doesn’t suffer from cold chain breaks when shipments pass between partner organizations. It’s perhaps even more important to ensure your company isn’t a cause of such issues. Advanced data monitoring is essential to verify that goods are being stored and transported safely on your watch — and by sharing data between partners, you can keep shipments safe up and down the supply chain.
Addressing Cold Chain Risk with Maintenance and More
At first glance, it may seem that a company’s ability to maintain a secure cold chain is mainly up to chance, but that’s only half the story.
It’s true that forces outside your control will impact your cold chain operations — unexpected mechanical failures, transportation delays, changing market conditions, miscommunications, and more. However, organizations that have reinforced their logistics operations against description are better prepared to bounce back when these events strike.
The process of improving your cold chain solutions lineup should reach multiple sides of your business, significantly including equipment service and staff management.
Maintaining Essential Equipment
The Global Cold Chain Alliance’s Best Practices Guide lists appropriate design and maintenance of equipment as essential parts of responsible cold storage and transportation. This means the systems have to be up to industry standards from the start, concerning not just their refrigeration capabilities but also related requirements, such as sanitation and cleanliness in the case of food transportation.
After selecting and installing appropriate equipment, your organization needs systems to keep assets functioning up to their capabilities. This is where data-driven proactive maintenance strategies prove their worth. Accurate and frequently updated information on your organization’s complete refrigeration equipment allows technicians to perform efficient, targeted maintenance and minimize downtime.
Empowering the Human Element
Food Logistics contributor Mark Petersen noted that businesses need to establish standard operating procedures to keep up cold chain operations. These practices will determine:
- Which employee handles every essential process.
- What has to occur at each step in the chain.
- What checks and balances are in place to ensure the system is followed.
Training is also necessary, so workers know where they fit into cold chain management procedures. The most effective training programs are divided by role, ensuring that supervisors learn how to manage cold chain logistics teams while frontline workers gain the know-how to complete their daily tasks safely and effectively.
Strengthening the Cold Chain with National Equipment Service
The right national equipment service partner can deliver the high level of performance necessary to prevent costly and time-consuming unplanned downtime in the cold chain.
A program built around MINER’s expert personnel can begin with selecting and installing equipment or with proactive maintenance and emergency service. Each organization’s strategy is customized to reflect the business’s equipment needs.
One of the advantages of teaming up with MINER is the truly national nature of the services available. No matter how many facilities you operate across multiple regions, your new maintenance and equipment service strategy can reach the whole organization. The national scope of MINER offerings allows your business to take advantage of economies of scale, receiving service from original equipment manufacturers that would be unavailable to smaller service partners.
In the case of cold chain maintenance, even a single instance of downtime can cause costly losses and disruptions. Guarding against issues whenever and wherever possible helps your organization master this potentially difficult side of logistics. Request a free quote to see how national equipment service could transform your operations.