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Cold Chain Logistics Management: What It Is, How It Works

by Murray Phillips,
Jun 28, 2024
maintaining temperature control in the cold chain process
maintaining temperature control in the cold chain process

Table of Contents

When you go to the grocery store or pharmacy, a large majority of the perishable, refrigerated, and frozen goods you’ll find arrive there thanks to one main system: cold chain logistics.

It’s a specialised field that involves managing the challenges and operations related to the cold supply chain, including maintaining specific temperatures for transporting, storing, and maintaining perishable products from their points of origin, typically cold storage facilities, to their final destinations.

Without proper cold chain management, we wouldn’t have fresh food in our groceries, restaurants, or markets.

What is Cold Chain Logistics?

Cold chain logistics refers to the transport and storage of perishable goods and other temperature-sensitive products in carefully controlled environments.

Cold chain logistics operations are a meticulous process because items need to be in their required temperature range. Preventing temperature excursions is crucial to preserve the quality and effectiveness of goods. These temperature sensitive goods require constant monitoring and proper temperature control.

Common Use Cases Cold Chain Logistics

Cold chain operations primarily serve industries that produce goods with a limited shelf life.

  • Food and Beverage Industry: All of the global restaurant and grocery industry relies on cold storage to ensure fresh produce, dairy products, and frozen foods maintain their farm-to-table quality. Proper cold chain logistics solutions prevent consumables from spoiling and losing their nutritional value.

  • Pharmaceutical Products: A huge amount of medications – from vaccines to biological materials like organs – are temperature sensitive goods. They need to stay this way to be effective. Cold chain shipping ensures these products reach healthcare providers in the right conditions to save lives.

  • Chemical and Industrial Products: Certain chemicals and industrial materials must remain at specific temperatures to remain stable and effective. Keeping the right environmental conditions and constant temperature monitoring are critical during the transportation and storage for these items.

Cold Chain Logistics Process

Cold chain logistics is made up of a series of processes that work together. It is crucial to maintain desired temperature conditions and minimize temperature fluctuations to prevent product spoilage. The entire process starts with keeping the goods in facilities with temperature control systems.

Temperature Control

Probably the most important element of cold chain logistics is keeping optimal temperatures in storage and transit throughout the entire supply chain. This means using refrigeration equipment and freezing techniques, depending on each product’s specific needs. Refrigeration temperatures tend to range from 2°C to 8°C while freezing conditions must be below -18°C.

Specialised Equipment

In order to keep items at optimal temperatures, cold chain logistics relies on specialised vehicles, storage facilities, and shipping containers equipped with refrigeration units and insulation. You’ll commonly find refrigerated trucks, cold storage warehouses, and insulated containers at every stage of the supply chain that ensures products remain within desired temperature ranges.

Monitoring and Tracking

Modern cold chain logistics must continuously monitor the temperature and humidity levels inside storage and transportation units. Thus, companies employ a wide range of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, RFID tags, and real-time GPS tracking to provide data on cargo conditions. This enables immediate corrective actions if any deviations occur to ensure products stay at optimal integrity.

Compliance and Regulations

Australian cold chain logistics companies have to adhere to stringent regulations to ensure the safety and quality of the goods they transport. The Australian government, through the National Construction Code (NCC), specifies standards for insulation and temperature control. If companies want to continue doing business successfully, no matter how reliable their equipment may be, they must make sure they closely follow all regulations along every step of their supply chains.

Cold Chain Technology

Experts project the cold chain logistics market in Australia will grow significantly over the next few years. In 2024, the market size hovers at an estimated 7.8 billion AUD – it’s expected to reach 9.4 billion AUD by 2029, a CAGR rate of 3.73%. Thanks to continual technological advancements in this sector, companies have been able to regularly improve their cold chain logistics processes to make them more efficient and reliable year after year.

Packaging Solutions

Proper packaging is the bread and butter of cold chain logistics – plus, the packaging keeps the bread and butter proper. Some packaging worth mentioning includes insulated containers, gel packs, dry ice, and phase change materials that maintain required temperatures for extended time periods.

Engineers have spent decades designing these thermal protection systems to ensure products arrive at their destinations in optimal condition.

Technological Innovations

Newer, more recent advancements in technology have made an impact in the cold chain logistics world. Software solutions that integrate within a transportation company’s existing architecture transportation management systems (TMS), warehouse management systems (WMS), real-time visibility, AI for predictive maintenance, etc.) have changed how these companies do business every day. As a result, they’ve seen improved risk management and an enhanced overall supply chain process. 

Keeping it Cool

As you might have expected, cold chain logistics in Australia and the rest of the world is a massive component of the modern supply chain. It relies on constant, careful planning, the most advanced modern technology, and a strict adherence to global regulatory standards. The demand around the world for temperature-sensitive products and perishable goods only continues to grow – that means the complexity and importance of cold chain logistics can only grow with it.

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