Breakdown of cold chain breaches

Transport of temperature-sensitive materials such as medical products and foodstuffs has always been linked to increased risk of damage during transport of either complete or partial consignments.

Today, new technologies are being utilised in the transport process, further helping to limit the risk of damage by using the latest technology. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) supports logistics personnel in optimising transportation routes, helps enhance efficiency in inventory and warehouse management, monitors transportation temperatures and sends alerts when needed. AI can also manage other critical processes required to keep temperature-sensitive goods in motion in a timely and accurate manner.

As the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes part of everyday operations in logistics and cold chain management, we can also see the rise of robotics and automation in warehouses incorporated into seamless ways of working. Similarly, smart contracts increase smooth transactions and support the automation of payments, helping to reduce the need for manual work and supporting operational efficiency.

Together, these technologies are enabling increasingly robust supply chains, reducing the number of human errors, and further protecting cold chain transportation.

What could go wrong?

The combination of an experienced insurance company and capable haulers can be extremely helpful in limiting the risk of damage, though of course this can never be eliminated completely. When the load is in the hands of the logistics companies, success depends on their understanding of the temperature sensitivity and capabilities in ensuring the temperatures are constant in protecting the goods in transport.

In the following paragraphs we look at some of the most common breaches in cold chains and how these can be prevented by implementing simple measures.

The most common breaches in cold chain transportation are:

  • No pre-cooling of the load
  • Lack of information to drivers
  • Poor condition of the container
  • Too many door openings
  • Restricted airflow
  • Insufficient cyber security

Let’s look deeper into each of these breaches to understand how the risks can be mitigated.

cold products.

No pre-cooling of the load

It is the responsibility of the supplier to make sure that products have the correct temperature before transport. If they are not sufficiently pre-cooled prior to collection, the drivers will have to bring down the temperature, which may cause a delay.

Lack of information For drivers

Communicating clearly with drivers before the transport begins will increase the likelihood of a successful transport. Knowing their load makes it easier for the driver to monitor the right temperature range and to handle the products with the required sensitivity.

Poor condition of the container

Another risk mitigating factor to consider before transportation is inspecting the container for its general condition. The potential of ‘thermal breaks’ will increase if there is an air leakage or condensation in the container.

“The maintenance of the regular cooling system and a contingency plan are important in case of sudden cooling system failures. Companies should plan what to do and where to call. The replacement availability of a container or a truck ought to be planned as well,” says Markus Hytönen, Cargo Risk Engineer at If.

Too many door openings

The temperature will be impacted when doors are opening, as cool air will escape. Especially in warm climates, this is an important factor to consider. It is very important to minimise exposure time to ensure faster recovery when door openings occur. 

Restricted airflow

Making sure that products are stacked correctly in the container will decrease the probability of restricted airflow, which can lead to several risks. If temperature-sensitive products are placed too near the cold air inlet, they can be exposed to constant direct refrigeration, which may cause damage to the products. In the event of a damaged load, one approach to determine the cause of damage can be to check the refrigeration unit log. The log can disclose information on temperature variations during transport.

Conducting thorough risk assessment will help to identify threats and potential targets.

A critical aspect of the supply chain

The transport of temperature-sensitive products is a critical aspect of the supply chain. The risk mitigating factors should be taken into consideration to avoid potential losses.

While the combination of advanced technology, support from If experts and persistent logistics companies can significantly reduce the risk of cold chain breaches, it is crucial to acknowledge that a complete elimination of risks may be impossible. Therefore, ongoing efforts to enhance awareness, implement preventive measures, and refine logistics processes are essential to ensure a successful and secure transport of temperature-sensitive materials in the ever-evolving landscape of supply chain management.

Insufficient cyber security

A further consideration comes with the new technologies mentioned on page 25. For example, cyber criminals can better target food transportation and storage by hacking into vulnerable software platforms and cloud applications. The potential risk is real: cyberattacks on cold storage facilities are not unheard of. However, companies can do a lot to protect themselves. Understanding the vulnerabilities through risk assessments helps to identify threats and potential targets. Furthermore, companies need to keep their cyber security capabilities up to date and invest in security systems to ensure they are not easily targeted.

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Published 2010 by Peter Bredal Mikkelsen. Updated by Caroline Bødkerholm, If