How shipping in cold chain is changing in a rapidly growing industry

on November 6, 2017

Shipping in cold chain, with particular emphasis on temperature controlled shipments, are crucial to the worldwide availability of food and health supplies. Rising demand for frozen food throughout the globe, as well as booming innovative medicines, are major factors driving growth for refrigerated transport. This rise in volume has meant that managing the cold chain has become a top priority for the food and pharmaceutical industries, as they need to maintain quality control in to meet consumer demand.

Last year global pharma cold chain logistics spending rose to $12.6 billion and is expected to exceed $13 billion worldwide in 2017. Forecasts show a 41% growth in cold chain spending between 2014 and 2020. (1) This is primarily due to the shift to biologics and other speciality pharmaceuticals many of which require refrigeration. Continued strong growth in insulin products and vaccines is also propelling growth as is the broader adoption of all these products from developed economies to underdeveloped ones, especially in Asia. By 2021, cold-chain biopharma logistics is expected to exceed $16 billion.

In regards to the food industry, there is a rising need for longer product shelf life, a consumer demand for the freshest offerings, and a growing desire to know exactly where food came from. The Food Safety Modernisation Act requires suppliers to provide more and more transparency which in turn requires monitoring of every product from the moment it is packed until it reaches the consumer’s plate.

Food items such as seafood, frozen food, fruits, meat, and dairy products have a low shelf life and require specific temperature, delivery duration and conditions to prevent decay. These shipments, including expensive medical supplies such as vaccines, will be irreversibly damaged when exposed to drastic temperatures changes or when exceeding temperature limitations. Therefore shipping in cold chain requires a level of transparency that matches the ever-growing demands of the industry.

Preserving and protecting sensitive supplies such as food, pharmaceuticals, and medical products from overcoming irreversible changes is not an easy task. Due to longer supply chains and rising international demand, it is becoming increasingly difficult for suppliers to monitor shipments from dispatch to delivery. Tracking shipments through multiple carriers, countries and handovers are very real challenges faced by those in the industry. Each year, billions of tons of fresh food products and millions of dollars’ worth of U.S. exports are lost due to poor cold chain systems in developing markets.

Innovations in pharma and biopharma have brought great changes in the industry. According to Constantin Blome professor of operations management at the University of Sussex “supply chains are increasingly stressed by demand variability and lower margins”. Networks must now adapt to this new trend and instead of large upfront investments designed to cope with peak volumes, new product launches will require supply chains to be rapidly adjusted as licenses change. With over $250 billion of annual biopharma sales dependant on cold chain logistics (3) these systems will have to reach new levels of agility and responsiveness and react to rapid changes.

Advancements in technology and high focus on innovation have enhanced the efficiency of refrigerated transportation for safety of food and protection of expensive medical products. Innovative solutions, such as ParceLive, enable live and accurate data reporting back on critical changes occurring throughout the supply chain. Data on this scale will play an important role in reducing food wastage, as well as allowing time-saving and greater responsiveness when drugs get damaged and lose potency on their way to the hospital or patient.

 

The ability to monitor, react to and fix failures across temperature sensitive networks in real time is now a reality. Cold chain shipments globally can be equipped with the tools to create their own workflow live from the field based upon real events. Using ParceLive shippers are able to attain accurate GPS and Temperature data that can be plugged straight into existing systems such as CRM’s or customer service operations. All of this means that should a parcel report back on its own failure a new order can be automatically generated and shipped without the receiver even knowing. With real time cold chain tracking as a service at the time, location and type of failure can be analysed and worked on. Knocking out chinks in the network and improving delivery standards for all future shipments.

Adopting this service at scale requires no additional infrastructure for users and very little additional technical capabilities. Providing this data globally is proving essential to improve the overall sustainability of cold chain logistics and shipping in cold chain with the reduction of energy consumption and eventual avoidance of large financial losses due to waste. ParceLive is currently reporting back on thousands of data points per day from shipments all over the world and that number is set to increase into the millions as the new year rolls around, providing real data on a scale not seen before.

Stephen HartnettHow shipping in cold chain is changing in a rapidly growing industry