Managing refrigerated transport

In the food and beverage industry securing transportation and ensuring the continuity of production can help to reduce the environmental impact of your operations.

Food production is expensive and reducing waste is important. Few people stop to consider the amount of valuable raw materials that can be ruined by errors made during transportation. For example, incorrect storage temperatures during raw material transportation can ruin the entire cargo. Similarly, an accident during transport can have a serious impact on the supply chain. In this article, If’s risk management specialists Jaana Salo and Markus Hytönen provide insights into how clients can work to reduce risks through good risk management.

Temperature-critical transport demands attentiveness

The food industry transports significant volumes of raw material that always require the right storage temperature. If the temperature is even a few degrees off, this can be disastrous for the cargo, and often the only option is that the batch has to be destroyed.

“The more expensive the raw materials, the more significant the financial loss will be, which often ultimately impacts the purchaser of the materials,”
explains Hytönen. “Transport companies are often quite well protected in these types of cases,” he notes.

In addition, it can be often difficult to find out who is liable and whose insurance will cover the damages. This is especially the case if sub-chartering is involved. This means that the consignment has been transported by several different carriers during its journey.

How to reduce transportation risks?

Markus Hytönen states that there are several different ways to reduce transport risks.

“The most important thing is to have proper control measures in place with raw material sources and providers, as well as to utilise only the most reliable partners whenever possible. This is especially important if you do not have your own transport vehicles or equipment. Contracts with transportation partners can also stipulate that sub-chartering is prohibited.”

Selecting the quickest and most reliable route, without intermediate storage and with minimal transfers from one vehicle to another, will help lower the risk of a rise in temperature,” says Hytönen. “It is therefore worth planning transport routes carefully. This can also help reduce the emissions of the overall journey, as industry players work to put efficiency of operations and sustainable solutions as priorities for transportation.”

It is essential to monitor the temperature during transport and to set limits with alarms for refrigeration equipment in accordance with the temperature restrictions for the products being transported. 

“The seller and the customer can also agree on the use of data loggers placed in the load to ensure continuous monitoring along the way. This also helps to track any temperature variations during transport. If something seems to have gone wrong during transportation, data loggers will reveal the true conditions in which the goods were delivered. Data loggers should be placed in different locations in the container to verify the steady temperature of the transport from the front of the car to the rear, for example,” explains Hytönen.

Buyers of raw material should keep in mind that reliable control measures also protect the operator from, among other things, reputational damage when spoiled products are intercepted before they reach consumers.

Vehicle condition and human error

Clients with their own refrigerated transport equipment need to regularly inspect their equipment as well as train their staff, including holiday successors, to be able to respond correctly and effectively in the event of an accident or an unexpected interruption.

“It is important for drivers to know how they should act if a vehicle breaks down during transport, and this includes how to locate and secure alternative or replacement transport as soon as possible. Similarly, being able to secure servicing and repairs for the vehicle at various locations along the journey is also essential. These things should also be considered in advance, as having clear guidelines in place can save the whole load,” emphasises Hytönen.

Human error is another factor which must be considered. Errors, for example, can be made when the goods are packaged for transport. The packaging materials used should be as ecological as possible but still appropriate for the protection of the materials, in order to avoid contamination or fluctuations in temperature.

Continuity planning brings security to production facilities

In addition to the challenges during transportation, another significant risk of large losses includes an accident at a production plant.

“The most devastating event is a fire, and it is important to do everything possible to prevent a fire from happening in the first place,” says Jaana Salo, Risk Engineer at If.

Fire prevention is vital to safe operations. Alongside the installation of active fire protection systems, such as sprinklers, it is recommended that facilities are also secured with rated fire doors. Similarly, the use of PIR/PUR sandwich panels is not recommended, as the use of non-combustible materials will provide better protection.

According to If Risk Engineer Phil Preston, “For existing facilities where these sandwich panels may already exist, potential ignition sources such as electrical switchboards and battery chargers should be removed from the panels. Planned renovation projects should include removal of PIR/PUR sandwich panels and replacement with non-combustible alternatives.”

Raw materials that are perishable need to be quickly diverted from primary production in case of an accident. This is an important part of continuity planning, helping to reduce the impact of the failure in production to lead to environmental issues.

“In addition to the loss of raw materials, a fire can cause significant short and long-term damage to the environment. In the event of a fire, various environmentally hazardous compounds are released into the air. Water used to extinguish the fire must also be prevented from entering the environment,” Salo notes.

Common causes of fires

Common causes of fires in the food industry include careless hot work tasks, electrical faults and dust explosions. The replacing of lamps from halogen to LED is a simple way to reduce the risk of fire, as well as save energy in the long run.

In the food industry, continuity planning can significantly reduce the risks of disruption through preparing for scenarios that can occur and being ready to make swift changes in operations in the event of an accident. Risks can also be reduced by having back-up systems to secure various functions in the production line. This means that operationally critical equipment, such as the power supply, are secured from two different sources, reducing the risk of disruption.

“You could say that good risk management and preparedness is always an environmental act for a company, although it may not seem that way at first,” Hytönen and Salo conclude.

Overnight parking

Clients are recommended to monitor the parking of refrigerated trucks overnight at a site. Typically, when the site is unmanned or only a small number of staff is present, e.g., for cleaning, it is important to pay attention to risks relating to refrigeration equipment in parked trucks. Specifically, when a fault occurs in refrigerated equipment the combustible insulation can ignite.

Trailers used for transporting frozen goods are typically built with materials that are combustible. If the trailer is parked at the loading bay overnight, the fire can quickly spread into nearby buildings or structures. It is therefore recommended that all overnight parking of trailers should be at a distance of at least 10 metres from buildings.

Furthermore, it is good practice to supply the trailers with electricity to power the refrigeration, rather than running on diesel, which is not only an environmentally unfriendly practice, but can also disturb neighbours.

Written by

Anne Nyman and Kristian Orispää