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Maintaining integrity of temperature and principles

Offering a three-pronged approach to achieving a responsible cold chain, Abhishek Ajay Shah elucidates the best practices that need to be adopted for tightening the links.

| | Mar 26, 2017 | 3:08 pm
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– Abhishek Ajay Shah

Abhishek Ajay Shah

Demand for food is on the rise globally, with individuals having the economic means to fuel greater consumption, while more and more e-commerce platforms allow them to articulate these needs. However, physical distances and temperature variations between the point of manufacturing and the point of consumption continue to present logistical challenges. They have now been magnified due to the massive volumes involved. For supply chain service providers, it boils down to one major issue: Maintaining the sanctity of the temperature required for temperature-sensitive products throughout their journey.

For third-party logistics (3PL) service providers, the solution to the temperature quandary is realised in three main ways:
1. Keeping the supply chain as lean as possible
2. Designing specialised storage and transport to maintain the desired temperatures
3. Maintaining product visibility throughout the supply chain.

The key to a lean supply chain is advanced planning and a high-level of coordination. This includes open communication, transparency and frequent reporting throughout the chain, which usually involves several parties from cargo owner to transporter to storage provider. It’s important to invest in a highly skilled team, with training conducted on a regular basis to execute the work efficiently. The staff need to be HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control points) certified, Good Manufacturing Practices certified, and receive training in food handling and hygiene, product knowledge, as well as vehicular handling.

There are different ways to achieve visibility, including the use of advanced temperature monitoring devices, which can be linked to the central control room

Time management is required not only in warehousing but also in the transportation aspect, where route selection plays a key role in minimising waste. Preparedness for unexpected challenges, including contingency planning – for example, remedial and immediate actions to take in the event of a vehicular breakdown – is equally important.

Sophisticated infrastructure is also key to the protection of temperature-sensitive products, and requires thoughtful planning. Companies may have to employ numerous strategies to provide multiple layers of temperature protection. The ideal facility could be built incorporating the following:
• A sophisticated, yet robust facility, implementing several safety features to house a variety of products, including dairy, frozen vegetables, fresh fruit and produce, and packaged goods
• Employing an environmentally responsible chiller system, for example, an ammonia chiller system
• Insulating the facility in different ways to minimise air loss, including isothermal inflatable dock shelters at the loading bay.
• The storage area designed based on a giant insulated box created within the main warehouse building to avoid direct exposure to external walls/ceilings, resulting in zero exposure to outside temperature
• Small details, such as LED lights to ensure no unnecessary thermal energy is generated
• High-speed sensor doors to minimise air loss and facilitate faster movement of material-handling equipment, making sure that operational time is not wasted in the movement of product to their adjudicated spots at any given time.

Additionally, it is imperative to leverage technology to create visibility throughout the cold chain, thereby providing the means to make pre-emptive, as well as reactive decisions where needed, during the journey of the temperature-sensitive products. This is key to being responsible to the customer as well as to the end-consumer, who is expecting to consume a product free of bruising, discoloration and, most importantly, harmful bacteria in the case of perishables.

There are different ways to achieve visibility, including the use of advanced temperature monitoring devices, which can be linked to the central control room. These monitoring devices also need to provide alerts to designated team members in the form of emails, SMS, etc., to facilitate action on a real-time basis.

The monitoring devices within the transportation vehicles could give alerts based on the deviation of temperature beyond the acceptable limit while the goods are in transit, and again result in real-time corrective actions to maintain the efficacy or freshness of goods.

Other innovations that are available are smart packaging solutions that report on the oxygen, pressure and humidity of the products, offering options to control or remedy any discrepancies. In addition to using technology, a principled approach to reporting, including self-reporting, ensures that integrity is not just maintained in temperature, but also between the numerous parties involved.

Abhishek Ajay Shah is Co-Founder and MD, RSA Logistics. He can be contacted at abhishek.shah@rsalogistics.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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