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What Is The Cold Chain Process?

The cold chain process refers to a series of steps and procedures that ensure the safe storage, transportation, and handling of temperature-sensitive products, such as perishable foods, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and other biological products. The primary objective of the cold chain process is to maintain a specific temperature range throughout the entire supply chain to preserve the quality, efficacy, and safety of the products.

Examining The Differences Between Cold Supply VS. The Normal Supply

After viewing the immense network of people and machines it takes to make a supply chain work it’s hard to imagine how we managed to accomplish such a feat without technological advances. The cold supply chain of the past consisted of cargo containers filled with blocks of ice, that would hopefully last the journey before melting. With soaring temperatures, unreliable equipment, and unsafe road conditions, moving anything more than 50 miles was considered a great risk less than a hundred years ago. 

Now, in 2022 the cold supply chain moves perishable-commodities or items that need to be stored in temperature-controlled containers across the world each day at remarkable speeds we would never have thought possible decades ago. Doing so reduces the growth of bacteria, contamination, and keeps cold items safe for consumers to use. While there are some similarities, there are a few ways that the cold supply chain is completely different from the normal supply chain.

Cold Supply Has Much More Moving Parts

Moving products that require temperature control involves multiple moving parts to work seamlessly. The normal process of moving freight is simple – plan the route, load the container, move the product, and deliver to the customer. When products require temperature controls like reefers of frozen shipments, each phase of shipping involves multiple additional steps.

Here are some of the ways the cold supply chain is different.

Planning: To plan a cold storage shipment, both the shipper and the receiver must work seamlessly to ensure the correct equipment is used to transport the goods to its correct destination. Some of the biggest problems and obstacles exist while shipping internationally, where products require being moved from one shipping container to another. Carriers are required to ensure their shipments comply with all safety standards and regulations to reduce waste, bacteria growth, and ensure a timely delivery.

Loading: Most carriers maintain cold-storage depots that allow them to keep products stored at the correct temperature. Once the shipment is ready to be transported, carriers must work quickly to load the cargo onto temperature-controlled containers.

Traveling With Freight: The cold supply chain needs to move both quickly and efficiently. Even with the advances in storage containers and safety procedures, the longer the products spend in transit the higher chance of something going wrong. Shipping delays can spell disaster for most products.

More Documentation

The biggest difference between the cold supply chain and normal supply chain is documentation. The Food Safety Modernization Act as established by the FDA provides shippers and carriers with controls required for the safe movement of cold-storage food. DOT and FDA requirements also ensure that carriers maintain temperature control logs to document the temperature of their cargo containers – in most cases every hour. If a carrier is pulled over by a police officer, and they do not have this temperature log filled out accurately, multiple fines and possible commercial shipping license suspension may occur. 

Cold Supply Chain Movement Affects Public Health

When a cold storage commodity is moved through the supply chain, failures to maintain temperature-control can impact public health. Specifically, there are two areas where cold supply chain shipments can cause harm to the general public if not correctly controlled.

  • Medical Products: Most medication and vaccines require storage at certain temperatures in order to maintain their effectiveness. Some of these products include life-saving produces like insulin for diabetics, vaccines, and antibiotics for serious infections. Without proper care during transport the results could be disastrous.
  • Food Products: Perishable products like produce, dairy, meat, and frozen foods make up 25% of the total supply chain across the globe. Keeping these products within their ‘danger-zone’ of temperature storage helps to reduce the growth or spread of bacteria. Most illness issues you hear about on the news are caused by lapses or mistakes within the supply chain.

While moving products from one location to another is a relatively straightforward process, the cold supply chain simply has more moving parts. The biggest issue that new cold-commodity shippers deal with is understanding the excessive regulations and paperwork control involved in this segment. If you’re a shipper who wants to learn more about how to successfully navigate the cold supply chain, contact us at [email protected] to see how we can help you with your cold supply needs.