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Beware the chain snatchers!

Brent Melvin succinctly sums up the roadblocks in efficient food chain logistics, and suggests that the time and money spent on due diligence and sophisticated equipment to ensure food safety prove cost-effective in the long run.

| | Mar 15, 2017 | 7:45 pm
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– Brent Melvin

Brent Melvin

Every year, a lot of discussion takes place around the subject of food safety and logistics, among various stakeholders in the business, who are invested in the issues involved. Fingers are pointed in all directions when it comes to responsibility and ownership of the product quality, or lack of it thereof, at various stages of the supply chain.

Regulate or perish
The simple fact remains that there is little regulation and control when it comes to transport and warehousing of food items. Time and again, transporters are held responsible for matters related to failure in the cold chain, usually as a result of poor equipment, lack of maintenance or trailers that have exceeded their useful life in regulated markets finding their way to the Middle East and other relatively non-regulated regions, notwithstanding the suitability of trailers in the region’s harsh climate.

Regulation needs to start with minimum standards related to such trailers on arrival and first registration in the GCC region, as the import of secondhand equipment continues, due to price benefits for the transporter. Followup controls need to be in place at annual re-registration to ensure suitability year on year from a traffic control point of view. So what role do departments of health in the region play in ensuring the suitability and conformance of trailers used for perishable cargo? This gap is part of the prevailing problem, where municipalities get involved in warehouse inspection but not vehicles.

Naturally, if the temperature is at the desired level at the time of delivery, the receiving warehouse generally accepts the cargo in good faith

Have no truck with manipulators

While this issue prevails, and lobbying continues for regulation, there remain some key reasons for the symptoms of cold chain failure when it comes to transporting of perishable cargo: Drivers are often not managed or observed throughout the journey, and it is common knowledge that reefer engines are switched off during the journey for long intervals, allowing a rise and fall in temperature, as the driver switches the reefer on and off to save diesel, while ensuring that the consignment is at the required temperature at the point of delivery. Naturally, if the temperature is at the desired level at the time of delivery, the receiving warehouse generally accepts the cargo in good faith.

There are, of course, telematics tools and data logger equipment available to mitigate risks of such malpractices. However, often, telematics is not available with the transporter, and data loggers are retrospective measuring devices, which, while they may allow a warehouse to reject the cargo, do not provide real-time surveillance of the cold chain. This may result in the rejected cargo being disposed of at great expense and wastage.

Smart buying is one of the short-term solutions available to manufacturers and distributors of perishable cargo. There are a large number of ad hoc transporters available with less than suitable equipment in the region, who are used by brokers to provide transport solution to companies that are looking to procure services at the cheapest rates available in the market. This behaviour drives demand for such operators. The net result is that professional operators who procure new and purpose-built equipment for the regional climate, with full visibility tools and journey management, are often not competitive price-wise, as a result.

Count quality, not cost
Professional transporters often integrate services with recognised high-quality warehouse operators, with the result being a sustainable cold chain offering end-to-end reliable service and visibility. Whilst you may pay marginally more for this level of service, you can rest assured that your product quality remains intact and waste is minimised in a region where cold chain is difficult to maintain with sub-standard service offerings being utilised. It is, therefore, in everybody’s interest to take the time to perform the necessary due diligence on the warehouse and transport operators you commit your valuable cargo to.

Brent Melvin is Growth and Innovation Manager, Almajdouie Logistics. He can be contacted at melvinb@almajdouie.com.

CPI Industry accepts no liability for the views or opinions expressed in this column, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided here.

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