Providing Cold Solutions To Warm Your Business
The success of industries that rely on the cold chain comes down to knowing how to ship a product with temperature control adapted to the shipping circumstances. Cold chain operations have substantially improved in recent decades, and the industry can answer the requirement of a wide range of products. Different products require the maintenance of different temperature levels to ensure their integrity throughout the transport chain. The industry has responded with the setting of temperature standards that accommodate the majority of products. The most common temperature standards are “banana” (13 °C), “chill” (2 °C), “frozen” (-18 °C) and “deep-frozen” (-29 °C), each related to specific product groups. Staying within this temperature range is vital to the integrity of a shipment along the supply chain, and for perishables, it enables to ensure optimal shelf life. Any divergence can result in irrevocable and expensive damage; a product can simply lose any market value or utility.
Being able to ensure that a shipment will remain within a temperature range for an extended period of time comes down largely to the type of container that is used and the refrigeration method. About 20% of all the energy consumed in cold chain logistics involves cargo refrigeration. Factors such as duration of transit, the size of the shipment, and the ambient or outside temperatures experienced are important in deciding what type of packaging is required, and the related level of energy consumption. They can range from small insulated boxes that require dry ice or gel packs, rolling containers, to a 53 footer reefer, which has its own powered refrigeration unit. The major cold chain technologies in providing a temperature-controlled environment during transport involve:
- Dry ice. Solid carbon dioxide is about -80°C and is capable of keeping a shipment frozen for an extended period of time. It is particularly used for the shipping of pharmaceuticals, dangerous goods, and foodstuffs and in refrigerated unit load devices for air cargo. Dry ice does not melt. Instead, it sublimates when it comes in contact with air.
- Gel packs. Large shares of pharmaceutical and medicinal shipments are classified as chilled products, which means they must be stored in a temperature range between 2 and 8°C. The standard method to provide this temperature is to use gel packs or packages that contain phase changing substances that can go from solid to liquid and vice versa to control an environment. Depending on the shipping requirements, these packs can either start off in a frozen or refrigerated state. Along the transit process, they melt to liquids, while at the same time capturing escaping energy and maintaining an internal temperature. We recommend using Ice Cold Gel Packs.
- Eutectic plates. They are also known as “cold plates”. The principle is similar to gel packs. Instead, plates are filled with a liquid and can be reused many times. Eutectic plates have a wide range of applications, such as maintaining cold temperatures for rolling refrigerated units. They can also be used in delivery vehicles to keep the temperature constant for short periods of time, a process that can be suitable for deliveries in noise-sensitive areas or for night deliveries.
- Liquid nitrogen. An especially cold substance, of about -196°C, used to keep packages frozen over a long period of time and mainly used to transport biological cargo such as tissues and organs. It is considered as a hazardous substance for the purpose of transportation.
- Quilts. Insulated pieces that are placed over or around freight to act as a buffer in temperature variations and to maintain the temperature relatively constant. Thus, frozen freight will remain frozen for a longer time period, often long enough not to justify the usage of more expensive refrigeration devices. Quilts can also be used to keep temperature-sensitive freight at room temperature while outside conditions can substantially vary (e.g. during the summer or the winter).
- Reefers. The generic name for a temperature-controlled transport unit, which can be a van, small truck, a semi-trailer, or a standard ISO container. These units, which are insulated, are specially designed to allow temperature-controlled air circulation maintained by an attached and independent refrigeration plant. A reefer is, therefore, able to keep the cargo temperature cool and even warm. The term reefer increasingly applies to refrigerated forty-foot ISO containers with the dominant size being 40 high-cube footers (45R1 being the size and type code).
The cold storage facility is the most commonly used in cold chain logistics. It can range from a single temperature-controlled room servicing a single user and function to a large dedicated distribution center servicing multiple users and functions.