How Technology Is Impacting Cold Chain Logistics
You don’t have to look far to find evidence of technology impacting the global supply chain and supply chain management. Visit your local grocery store or pharmacy, and you will undoubtedly see fruits and vegetables that are out of season in your area, flash-frozen meats, and pharmaceuticals that were produced halfway around the world.
In cold chain logistics, technology has become a make-or-break part of the system. When goods have a finite shelf life and must be temperature controlled, the pressure is on both manufacturers and shippers to ensure that added precaution is taken to ensure prompt delivery of safe products.
Each link within this end of the supply chain (3PLs, carriers, storage facilities, etc.) must work in conjunction to handle goods correctly as they move from point A to point B. With the right technology pieces in place, tracking and monitoring are more accurate, providing up to the second information for each party involved.
Trax empowers enterprises with globally complex supply chains to gain full control of their transportation costs. Backed by edge computing and artificial intelligence, our partners can leverage data to improve visibility across their entire supply chain network.
What is cold chain logistics?
Before diving into the nitty-gritty details of the technology side of the equation, we first need to build a framework of what cold chain logistics is, its role in the global marketplace, and the challenges associated with operating in this supply chain segment.
On its base level, cold chain is a supply chain that deals with perishable, temperature-sensitive goods, which may be referred to as cool cargo. Examples of cool cargo include fresh produce, meat, dairy, seafood, flowers, wine, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and more.
A product-specific low-temperature range is needed when shipping these goods to maintain the overall quality and safety of products for the end consumer. Cargo within the segment may need to be refrigerated, frozen, or kept at ultra-low temperatures to prevent the product from spoiling, ultimately leading to financial loss.
Challenges of cold chain logistics
Like other areas of supply chain management, there are several challenges associated with cold chain logistics. Increased consumer demand, safety concerns over equipment and packaging, environmental conditions, and increased standards and regulations must be considered, each of which impacts overall transportation management costs.
These challenges are amplified in pharmaceutical industries, where medications can have a wide range of temperature requirements. In a recent article, the Healthcare Distribution Association highlighted that 10% of all medications are temperature-sensitive, a number that is only expected to rise in coming years as new antibiotics and vaccines are developed.
Effective management requires visibility into each link in the supply chain network, and that is only possible through data – and a lot of it.
Cold chain technology
As we said at the beginning of this article, technology has become a focal point for cold chain logistics, and as more data enters the equation, having the right tools in place will make it easier to manage how temperature-sensitive goods are handled and shipped.
Transportation management systems, GPS, and other telematics devices are now a staple within the supply chain because of their ability to improve visibility as goods move through each segment of the supply chain. But being able to pinpoint where goods are at any given moment isn’t necessarily a new concept. These tools have been used for years to help improve visibility and reduce costs.
What has changed is the technology being utilized and the increased adoption rate by 3PLs, carriers, manufacturers, and distributors.
For years, GPS and RFID chips were the focal point for most supply chain managers. The ability to quickly and accurately see where all shipments were located was a game changer, even if it required a more manual process. While beneficial, older systems were limited in their ability to scale. They could generate data but struggled with aggregating information to make it more digestible.
Today, machine learning and artificial intelligence allow transportation managers to set triggered alerts should any slight deviation occur that might signal a delay or issue within the network. Rather than sifting through a mountain of data, they can focus on issues as they arise – in real time – making it easier to prevent losses.
Although tracking is essential, it is only one side of the coin when looking at cold chain logistics. Knowing where a shipment is located is great, but how do you know if it is being shipped or stored at an acceptable temperature range? This is where monitoring comes into play.
Unlike tracking, monitoring is a relatively new component of cold chain management. Conditions such as temperature and humidity are now visible through the use of devices such as data loggers and Bluetooth sensors that actively monitor conditions within the container or storage area. Most operate on a set interval unless conditions change and go above or below the target range for a given product.
There is an abundance of resources available on the intricacies of the Internet of Things, or IoT, so we won’t open Pandora’s box in this article. What is important to know is that IoT allows data from tracking and monitoring devices to be aggregated within a single system.
Information from different sources across your supply chain network can be brought together and organized to help provide better visibility and reliable insights that make it easier to maintain cold chain integrity while also improving efficiency.
Cold Chain Management With Trax
There is no shortage of challenges associated with cold chain management. Increased demand, changing regulatory requirements, and more require improved visibility into each link within the supply chain network. Addressing these challenges requires an abundance of data as well as systems and processes that can make it easier to gain insights that allow you to manage transportation costs effectively.
At Trax, we believe that helping our partners improve their systems and processes revolves around real-time data and analytics. We understand emerging technology's role in helping global organizations mitigate risk and improve operational efficiency.
Learn more about Trax and our solutions, and get started with a consultation with one of our team members today.
Trax is the global leader in Transportation Spend Management solutions. We partner with the most global and complex brands to drive meaningful optimizations and savings through industry-leading technology solutions and world-class advisory services. With the largest global footprint spanning North America, Latin America, Asia, and Europe, we enable our clients to have greater control over their transportation performance and spend. Our focus is on your success.