Refrigerated transport is an essential but often less overlooked portion of the supply chain. These cold chains are necessary for items as simple as meat to as crucial as sensitive medicines to reach their destinations. In addition, the cold chain offers a solution to get these products to places they otherwise would never go. New solutions to make cold chain management more straightforward and feasible are currently undergoing active development..
Many still need clarification as to what cold chain management is, what it entails precisely, the tech that makes it possible, and how badly supply chains would suffer if cold chain management fails.
What Cold Chain Management Is
The cold chain, as the name implies, is a logistics management process focusing on products, from consumer goods to pharmaceuticals, requiring refrigerated temperatures. Cold chain management is an entire process that involves performing a series, or chain, of tasks to prepare, store, and transport products from one place to another.
Keep products at their optimal temperature in the cold chain to avoid them from becoming damaged and unusable, leading to highly wasted products. When cold products go wrong, the shipper and the client lose money and damage the shipper’s reputation.
What Relies on Cold Chain Management
Two main product categories heavily require the supply cold chain. Food and pharmaceutical products both involve the shipment of products that need to be kept at certain lower temperatures for extended periods to ensure that the products do not perish. As a result, this has become increasingly common for pharmaceuticals, with more complex treatments needing to be kept refrigerated to ultra-low temperatures at all times to ensure they remain stable.
The pharmaceutical cold chain has seen many advancements in recent years. The pharmaceutical cold chain is more equipped to handle low-temperature products thanks to early COVID-19 vaccines requiring ultra-low temperatures and shipped in massive quantities.
Even as vaccine options that don’t require low-temperature transport and storage and the risk of COVID-19 decreases, new pharmaceuticals continue to pop up that still require such delicate treatment. Therefore, cold chain management and its solutions are increasing in the industry.
What are the Components of the Cold Chain?
Some elements of cold chain management Dickson notes, include temperature-controlled storage facilities with temperatures kept at ambient, refrigerated, frozen, ultra-frozen, or other such low-temperature conditions. However, the apparent key to the cold chain is that every component revolves around keeping products at a regulated cold temperature.
Some of the more exact components involved are storage, packaging, monitoring, and transport. However, this is a partial list, but it does point out several critical parts of cold chain management.
Transport in the cold chain includes using different transport solutions to move temperature-sensitive products from the point of storage to the general consumer markets—transportation of these products in several ways, including by road, air, sea, and railway.
With product shortages weighing on the minds of consumers and transporters alike, it’s more important than ever that products be kept stable and safe. As a result, it saves money from being lost and lowers the risk of further product shortages from occurring.
Cold chain management requires suppliers that keep track of crucial information about their shipments depending on the products they manage. Unfortunately, this information includes several environmental details that could damage a product. For example, temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors can compromise sensitive cargo.
Data logging is a widely used technology for monitoring cold chain storage systems. It simplifies cold chain management by ensuring efficient monitoring of sensitive goods in place of human observers.
Data loggers also aid in quality assurance and prevent products from going bad. As a result, any quality issues that arise have a better chance of being addressed before it is too late. For the pharmaceutical industry, this is especially important, as catching pharmaceuticals before perishing can help ensure the safety of patients who are more health-conscious than ever.
To maintain the quality during a shipment, products sensitive to incorrect temperatures require correct packaging. Therefore, following handling regulations to preserve their environment for longer than necessary, from creation to reaching the consumer.
Proper packaging helps lower the risks of product contamination. Many products that require extraordinary ultra-low temperatures may even have specialty packaging to keep them at an otherwise difficult-to-maintain temperature. Most notably in the pharmaceutical industry, some products require storage at temperatures as low as -80 Celsius.
Using the proper packaging has the side-benefit of being energy-efficient as far as the storage of products along the cold chain goes. Altogether, using the appropriate packaging keeps products stable and ensures consumers get products that won’t put their health at risk.
The need for cold chain management doesn’t begin when a product with low temperatures needs to leave its manufacturing location. Instead, the cold chain truly starts from the second of product manufacturing. As a result, the storage of products usually begins on-sight, with refrigerated or specialty facilities to keep them stable.
The supply cold chain has many warehouses that will store products for extended periods. Many of these locations include their own specialized facilities that will depend on what they plan on keeping.
Some common cold storage facilities and equipment include cold rooms, refrigerated containers, chillers, blast freezers, cold boxes, and vaccine carriers. Ultra-low or extremely exact temperatures utilize less common storage units. These are becoming increasingly common in the pharmaceutical supply cold chain, where manufacturing more helpful products require temperatures lower than -50 celsius.