From Field to Fork: The Future of the Cold Chain
By: Jay Moss, President, Specialized Services, Transplace
With winter temperatures fully upon us, it’s a great time to take a look at all of the latest cold chain industry trends. Recently, this sector has seen some shifts with the ongoing implementation of new regulations and continuing advances in technology. Below are a few choice trends, challenges and changes within the cold chain sector that are having a prevalent impact on the outlook of the industry.
Priorities in Today’s Cold Chain Sector
For the cold chain logistics sector, the primary supply chain priority is speed-to-market. Over the past few years, execution within the supply chain is getting shorter and shorter, because every minute, hour and day that is taken out of the process results in big savings for the shipper. From small manufacturers to big-box retailers: many, if not all companies that require a cold chain are trying to shorten the supply chain with a more regional approach.
Companies are now prioritizing getting products to the consumer more quickly and fresher than ever before. For example, services have begun to “cut out the middle man” and deliver fresh ingredients daily to the consumer’s house with a recipe ready to prepare that evening. This method has created a shift in the way that many people purchase their food.
The fact that many online stores are shipping directly to the consumer ultimately allows for product to be delivered in hours, not days, creating new supply chain views and priorities for shippers. This increase of speed-to-market also helps to lessen the carbon footprint of the supply chain, which is often a key business goal of many companies both big and small.
Concerns and Challenges in the Industry
Whether you are an operator, manufacturer or logistics company, capacity is going to be a big concern for your organization. When the economy is slow, too much capacity may be the problem, and when the economy is booming, there is certainly widespread concern about the possibility of being unable to secure enough capacity. Currently, capacity is fairly balanced in the market, but any type of seasonality or surge in the produce or frozen markets can send it suddenly reeling off balance.
A way to work around the challenges of seasonality and capacity shortages is by planning in advance. Cold chain shippers need to be looking ahead and repositioning assets to ensure that they are able to meet demand, adapt to the market and maintain efficient operations if a capacity shortage strikes. This type of planning needs to occur up to 2 to 3 months in advance.
Additionally, just as in other markets, regulations have had an impact on the cold supply chain. A prevalent topic within the industry has been the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate and its impact on shippers and carriers alike. For the refrigerated sector, the ELD mandate creates an opportunity to make a long-overdue positive impact, as the implementation of these devices may open up the eyes of many companies as to how they view their transportation network.
Innovations in Technology
For major retailers, delivering straight to the consumer in a matter of hours is being made possible (and much more efficient and cost-effective) by advances in supply chain technology. And for cold chain shippers, the success of this process comes down to enhanced visibility.
To achieve this visibility, shippers can tap into the capabilities of a true “TMS 2.0,” allowing them to access and leverage a wealth of data. This type of technology also incorporates a graphical view of shipments and active dashboards of KPIs including active shipments, on-time arrivals/departures, carrier performance and DOE fuel index.
Advanced technology is also being used when it comes to cold chain compliance. Monitoring a refrigerated unit, setting the temperature remotely and receiving an alert if anything goes under the required temperature is becoming the new norm. From field to fork, shippers want to ensure that nothing is going wrong and that all temperatures are constantly compliant – and with the right advanced technology, shippers can tap into a supply chain strategy that runs like a well-oiled machine.
What trends are you seeing within the cold supply chain?