The 5 elements of cold chain services explained

The effects of globalization have turned our world into a global village. Information travels fast but physical distance is still a harsh reality. Therefore, taking part in international trade requires reliable freight and logistics partners. There are many different companies that operate on the market, but not all of them present a good choice. Your most important goal is the safety of your shipments, so you must choose your partners accordingly. This is especially true if you are trading with goods that have an expiry date or are easily perishable such as food, pharmaceuticals, and medicals. This also means that you are in need of cold chain services. In this article, we are going to break down this term for you, and help you to understand the concept of cold chain services. We are also going to present to you the 5 elements of cold chain services. Stay with us.

So, what are cold chain services?

The cold chain is basically the process of transportation of temperature-sensitive products. The need for this type of transportation soared with a rise in worldwide demand for perishable goods. The quality of these products degrades over a period of time, particularly if they are exposed to higher temperatures. The main goal of cold chain services is to protect these fragile shipments from harsh external factors. This process has several different phases:

  • Thermal and refrigerated packaging methods.
  • Specialized transportation methods. Most shipping and logistics companies use refrigerated trucks and railcars, refrigerated cargo ships, as well as refrigerated air cargo.
  • Cold storage. Specialized climate-controlled storage facilities for this type of goods ensure the preservation of products over a period of time. The units could be used either for products waiting to be shipped to a distant market or close to the market for distribution.
  • Cold processing and distribution. Providing facilities for processing, and distribution of these goods with respecting all sanitary laws and conditions.

    Picture of pharmaceutical experiment
    Pharmaceutical companies often use cold chain services for their products

Cold chain services elements explained

A cold chain is a supply chain that provides a temperature-controlled environment during the transport of a product, from the place of origin to its destination point. There are several important elements of this chain:

  • Packaging. In order to reduce the risk of increased temperatures, the advanced, energy-efficient packaging design serves to safely transport products in insulated shipping containers.
  • Monitoring. A data logger supervises the temperature of items throughout the supply chain. What’s more, many other parameters should be monitored, including air quality.
  • Transport. This element includes refrigerated boxcars, reefer ships, refrigerator trucks and reefer containers.
  • Customs. A cold chain needs to ensure all the paperwork meets the customs control requirements. This could reduce customs delays to a great extent. Check Saudi customs for more info on this topic.
  • Storage. Cold storage facilities or warehouses which control the changes in temperature.
  • Quality Assurance. The two important elements such as quality control and quality failures’ management fall into this category.
  • End-Customer. Once the product reaches its final destination or its end-customer, a communication of storage requirements takes place. Furthermore, the final delivery process has to be in line with the customers’ requirements for the reception of cold deliveries.

    Picture of monitoring systems
    Reliable logistics companies use modern monitoring systems to keep track of temperature changes

One of the most important elements of cold chain services is technology

Since the 1950s, third-party cargo transportation providers began to develop and offer new methods for transporting cold chain commodities. This was an important breakthrough from an economic point of view as the cold chain enables many developing countries to join the global perishable products market. This market is enormous today, as consumers have become preoccupied with healthy eating. People with increasing purchase power are always hungry for fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and meat products from all over the world. So, what is the technology behind cold chain services?

  • Reefers. The common name for temperature-controlled transport vehicles such as vans, trucks, or trailers.
  • Quilts. Pieces of fabric that act as a buffer between a temperature-sensitive product and outside factors. It helps the product maintain its temperature for a longer period of time. They have a purpose during summer and during winter.
  • Liquid nitrogen. One of the coolest substances on earth, with a temperature of about -196°C. The most frequent use is for transportation of sensitive shipments such as organs or tissues.
  • Dry ice. This type of ice consists of carbon dioxide, it doesn’t melt and it helps in keeping the temperature of cargo at -80°C.
  • Gel packs. Mostly used in the transportation of pharmaceuticals, gel packs are packed in the frozen state and help maintain the temperature by capturing escaping energy.
  • Eutectic plates. Also known as cold plates, they are similar in concept to gel packs. They have a liquid filling and are reusable.

    Picture of liquid nitrogen. This chemical is used in cold chain services like organ and tissue transportation
    There are various technological approaches in cold chain services, ranging from simple refrigerators to liquid nitrogen

Other important elements

Cold chain technology comprises three important elements such as load integrity, conditional demand, and transport integrity. Furthermore, a cold chain acts as an interplay of the following three technologies:

  • Product. The commercial value of the product should remain unaltered during transport. Depending on how perishable and fragile it may be, or how it can be affected by the cold chain process, the product’s physical specifications determine the conditions and the way it should be preserved.
  • Origin/Destination. The origin or the destination of a product refers to a particular place it comes from. The temperature sensitivity and the physical attributes of a particular product are determined by its origin. Since this could be perceived as a constraint, advances in cold chain services have made it possible to use the distant sourcing strategies worldwide.
  • Distribution. Safe and temperature-controlled transportation of a product is done according to certain methods and by using the available infrastructure which includes temperature-controlled containers (reefers), warehousing facilities, and trucks.

These were some of the most important elements of cold chain services, we hope that you will find out short guide useful.


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