As consumers in all corners of the world demand more fresh food and other perishables, the method of getting these items to them becomes all the more important. Cold chain, the method by which perishable items are stored, packaged and shipped, makes this all possible.
How do the items utilizing the cold chain regimen reach their destination quickly without sacrificing the quality or integrity of the product? As technology and other factors emerge and affect operations here are some trends facing the cold chain Industry.
- Globalization of Cold Chains:
Grocery stores may have a wide variety of produce from different regions of the world. In many instances this hasn’t always been the case. In the past food stores would only carry certain items available during specific times of the year. This seasonality limited consumers as to which perishable items they could buy.
This is no longer the case. A shift in consumer demand has greatly attributed to this change. Consumers are looking to eat more fresh items. Nowhere has this been felt more than in Asia, where consumer demand for fresh fish & meat has never been greater, propelled by a growing wealthier middle class. In order to keep up with record demand, global cold chain providers will need to find new and inventive ways to maintain and optimize their operations in order to ensure quality without sacrificing speed and efficiency — while remaining compliant with different health and food safety regulations across the globe.
- Leveraging Data:
In this age of technology, data and its application have never been more prevalent. But what information is applied to the cold chain and more importantly, what actions can be taken with this new found insight?
Onboard refrigeration units track temperature that can be seen in real time by the shipper. This prevents loss of both product and profit.
Improvements to GPS tracking are leading to increased visibility of goods as they make their way to their destination and aiding in efficiency. These technological enhancements allow the shippers to adjust temperature, shipping routes and other variables as needed to maintain quality. Technology continues to evolve within the cold supply chain providing carriers with more information than ever before. The data available makes managing the process a lot easier, and it aides in keeping the quality of the product at its optimal level.
- Packaging Improvements:
There is a strong industry wide call to be more “green” and environmentally conscious. One of the largest contributors of waste is the packaging that many types of goods are shipped in. As a way to combat this problem shippers have found new innovative materials to package goods that are not only eco friendly, but additionally help reduce costs.
The primary function of packaging is to ensure goods remain safe without sacrificing quality. Companies are beginning to utilize renewable materials as sources of packaging. Consumers are also beginning to demand this as well, due in part to the recent outcry against using plastics and a trend to purchase items from a company deemed environmentally conscious.
In addition to using more eco friendly materials, shippers are also looking into ways to pack items more efficiently. This helps with the amount of containers in a load, and reduces emissions due to reduced weight. Less waste is created once the contents are removed because there is less packing overall. As new sources for materials emerge this area of the cold chain will only improve, and the environmental impact will diminish.
- 3PL’s Offering a wider range of services:
Manufacturers have been closely focusing on their own business processes and leaving the supply chain management to 3PL’s. This allows the business to focus on their core competencies. This benefits the manufacturer in a few ways:
A. Outsourcing cold chain operations is more cost effective than managing it internally. The provider can negotiate better rates with the carrier.
B. In addition to being experts in the cold chain, many providers are offering full scale solutions. This enables full transparency from beginning to end, and full accountability of the 3PL being utilized for the service.
C. The manufacturer can have peace of mind knowing the supply chain process is with one company as opposed to several.
3PL’s help when demand is high (holidays) and when businesses do not want to expand their operation internally. They are able to utilize a 3PL’s existing facilities to help grow as their needs dictate. It’s this flexibility that make using a 3PL attractive to manufacturers in addition to the monetary savings.
- Seamless Outsourcing:
As businesses who rely on the cold chain continue to expand rapidly due to increased demand, it becomes increasingly more difficult for them to keep up. Outsourcing part or all of the operation to a 3PL, the company’s’ core business function remains at its peak without the worry of logistical challenges. A trusted and reliable 3PL cold chain partner who offers a variety of solutions for every situation enables a business to thrive, and more importantly adapt to change easily. The resources available to a 3PL are nearly limitless. Facilities, staff and know-how are what separates them from an internal supply chain. The range of services offered to businesses are unparalleled. The ease of outsourcing the cold chain operation makes it easier for the manufacturer to use a 3PL without the fear of its business slowing down.
For cold chain operation solutions and information, please visit http://oceanstarinc.com/