5 Hot Trends in Cold Chain Management

April 24, 2023
Cold Chain
delivery robots parked in line

At the end of the day, it all comes down to quality. Your cold chain logistics are ultimately measured against the state of the delivered product at its final destination. Whether it’s food products or pharmaceuticals, anything that doesn’t meet product temperature requirements is a major risk. That’s why the current trends are all about improving processes and technology to ensure quality. 

Markets now demand stricter controls to ensure the quality of their products to optimize their shelf life. It’s this increased pressure that has led cold chain stakeholders to innovate across all aspects of their operations. This article will discuss the top trends driving these innovations. 

Cold chain management trends to explore and employ

The rate of change in cold chain management has only accelerated in recent years due to new technologies and significant events like the Covid-19 pandemic and global inflation rates. The following list covers some of the biggest trends in this space: 

  1. Smart sensors are the new standard

The Internet of Things (IoT) has taken hold of cold chain logistics. This trend means that many previously offline aspects of the transportation process have been digitized, such as the addition of smart sensors to packaging. 

Gone are the color change temperature-monitoring solutions that had to be visually assessed and recorded. Labels that change color when out of temperature range have become outdated and are too susceptible to human error. 

Real-time monitoring sensors now give immediate feedback whenever products go out of temperature range so stakeholders can make quick and informed decisions. A great example of this is Varcode’s Smart Data Solution which includes Smart Tags and scanning to capture all the information needed to manage the transport of temperature-sensitive products. 

  1. Robotics to combat labor shortages

A 2023 3PL study shows that transporters around the world are feeling the effects of labor shortages. From warehousing to drivers, companies are struggling to find skilled employees to fulfill their cold chain solutions. 

One way that companies are solving this problem is through innovative cold chain technology. Transporters are looking to create greater efficiency within the cold chain by including new tech like electric vehicles, drones, and robots that can take on some of the workload. In fact, the robotics market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10%, reaching almost 70.6 billion U.S. dollars by 2028.

Maintaining the cold chain is a costly and energy intensive operation, even more so with the addition of robotics. Transporters are further challenged to consider sustainable energy sources while addressing labor shortages with new technologies.

  1. Strategic use of data analytics 

The big data trend is impacting all industries. Companies are generating huge amounts of data throughout the cold chain process that needs to be analyzed and managed. 

Using a temperature data logger strategically enables transporters, and their clients, to glean insights about their products and their transportation. For example, data analytics is being used to optimize supply chain operations and reduce waste. With data analytics, companies can predict demand, track inventory levels, and improve forecasting accuracy.

This again is where Varcode’s Smart Data Solution comes into play. The solution provides a central dashboard that collates important data into one, easy-to-use interface. You can quickly find insights and address challenges when you have the data to back up your thinking. 

  1. Artificial intelligence

There has been a lot of talk recently about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can impact industries with technologies like ChatGPT and Copilot. AI provides transporters with advanced tools that can help improve the accuracy and speed of decision-making, such as determining the optimal shipping route or adjusting temperature-monitoring settings based on up-to-date weather conditions. 

AI, combined with big data, can help companies better understand the patterns and trends that affect their supply chain, allowing them to make informed decisions based on real-time data. Experts suggest that AI will play a more supportive role in the cold chain process for the time being. 

  1. The use of 3PLs as a response to globalization

Globalization has granted cold chain transporters with increased access to markets which in turn poses a challenge to their capacity. To meet the demand for cold chain logistics across the globe, many transporters have opted to outsource aspects of their cold chain to third-party logistics (3PL) providers. 3PLs can offer more flexibility to companies and greater access to region-specific expertise where needed. 

Though globalization can open up new opportunities, it can also bring about new risks for transporters. To keep up with the rate of change, transporters need to rethink how they plot their logistics, including the modes of transport they use. Global companies need to adaptively switch modes of transport to mitigate risks posed by geo-political challenges. For example, a transporter might decide to change from air freight to cargo ships when flight zones are closed or opt for longer routes to circumnavigate areas of conflict. Again, the increasing use of 3PLs can provide the flexibility to respond to external forces that threaten product quality.

What about regulations?

Regulators are working hard to keep temperature-controlled transport regulations up to date with all the changes taking place in the market. It’s the responsibility of transporters to ensure that they are executing their logistics in accordance with fundamental regulation principles such as: 

  1. Proper documentation
  2. Accurate Temperature control
  3. Safe hygiene practices, and
  4. Product protection

It is only a matter of time before regulations become stricter and enforceable right down to a regional level. Transporters have the opportunity to use regulations to reinforce their existing practices and ultimately improve their operations.  

Time to get on trend

Trends will continue to change and adapt to technological advances. The important thing is to take on these new practices as they become relevant to your operations. 

Start updating your cold chain management practices today with the Varcode Smart Data Solution. Varcode's Smart Tags and real-time monitoring solutions can help your company stay on top of cold chain management trends by providing accurate temperature data and ensuring compliance.

Ready to Get Started?

Learn how Varcode can enhance the value of your current investment in cold chain monitoring.