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A guide to efficient cold chain logistics
In perishables logistics, planning is everything. One can set up the perfect production line yet struggle with delivering quality if the product loses freshness on the way to the market. That’s why, in the case of segments with brief shelf lives, supply chains must be primed for resilience, product longevity, disruption management and efficient collaboration.
So, let's go through some of the top challenges of cold chain logistics and determine the best ways of moving them safely, with minimum hassle.
Tracking, Monitoring and Quality control
Perishables don’t last long. Be it medicines, fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, or seafood, without the right ambient conditions maintaining freshness or flavour is an impossible feat. Fortunately, cold chain technologies have come a long way and offer far more options than just cold or hot settings. There are state-of-the-art technologies in the market that help monitor conditions inside a container and provide a real-time view of location, temperature, humidity, oxygen, and carbon dioxide levels. That's not all. Should market situations change, shippers can use the available knowledge to redirect cargo to more favourable destinations.
In 2020, when China imposed restrictions on pork during the Covid-19 pandemic, cargo owners were able to minimise their losses by evaluating their shipments’ condition and diverting to other open ports.
Whenever demand fluctuates due to shifts in volume, poorly planned supply chains struggle with time-to-market. Instead of identifying the root cause and implementing a focused solution, they turn the entire setup upside down, leading to costly and complicated outcomes.
For a hyperlocal metric like time-to-market, proximity to the destination markets can provide better results. Local cold storage are proven examples of how time-to-market can improve while reducing recurring transit costs.
Some chilled meat and seafood commodities can last up to 90 days from the production, when transported in a temperature-controlled supply chain. So, any delay in the transport reduces the supermarket's window of sale. A local cold store can handle such scenarios easily.
Due to their fragile composition, perishables rely heavily on the availability of equipment since even the slightest of delays can setback the entire supply chain by days, resulting in wastage and loss of revenue. To ensure constant availability, some setups allow demand to guide the inventory. However, since the market conditions change frequently, most supply chains maintain buffer reserves to eliminate all shortage risks.
Even though all perishables businesses make provisions for buffer stock of specialised containers, it’s especially most critical for pharmaceuticals, and fruits and vegetables, due to high demand throughout the year.
Before Covid-19, risk diversification was a popular area of focus across industries. However, within a few months into the pandemic, businesses were pushed back into concentrated pockets of trade as select regions reopened their markets before others.
Today, even though more markets have opened, the lop-sided trade equations are expected to continue for some more time in the form of unilateral risk concentration and increased costs. Until situations normalise, supply chains must allocate adequate resources to the dominant markets to prevent further loss on profit margins.
As far as more common but less severe disruptions are concerned, digital solutions and dashboards can help in identifying the demand patterns and aid decisions based on historical data.
Unique challenges for commodities
While there are several challenges that are common across the entire perishables segment, there are a few that apply more to one segment more than the others. Let’s see what they are.