Cold Chain Management Best Practices

February 6, 2023
Cold Chain

Keeping products cold is not as simple as leaving them in the fridge or freezer. In fact, even if you’re working within a cold environment, you cannot guarantee that your product will not spoil or become harmful. That is why managing and controlling temperature is so important; even a few degrees hotter or colder could cause significant damage.

Truck driving on snowy highway

This concept is only compounded in cold chain transport where temperature-sensitive products move from one location to another, sometimes with multiple stops along the way. In this article, we will focus on the best practices that you can follow to help ensure the quality of your cold products. Let’s dig in.  

Which products are temperature sensitive?

When you think about all the products that you could transport, it’s surprising to consider just how many of them are impacted by temperature. The most obvious examples are fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, but they are only the tip of the iceberg.

Temperature-sensitive products are any products that can be negatively affected by changes in temperature. Other examples include the following:

  • Frozen foods and meals
  • Medications and pharmaceuticals
  • Dairy products
  • Consumables with live cultures
  • Flammable products or products that are impacted by high temperatures

Each of the examples above has its own temperature requirements which can make cold chain transport very complex. In reality, cold chain management is the responsibility of all stakeholders involved in the product's journey from raw processing, to its final destination. However, each stakeholder is accountable for their leg of the journey.

Luckily, there are several ways to safeguard your products.

5 Best practices for your cold chain logistics

Just because there is competition within the cold chain transport industry doesn’t mean you have to make the same mistakes as others. Here are five handy best practices that you can use to keep your operations on time and up to scratch:

1.  Define ‘cold’

There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to transporting products that need to be kept cold. You need to make sure that you know what temperature of ‘cold’ is required for the specific product and whether your vehicles are equipped to maintain that temperature. Some products need to remain refrigerated but cannot be frozen, while others need to be kept at cryogenic temperatures. In most cases, it is a good idea to define a safe temperature range for the products that you transport so that your staff can report when temperatures go outside of these parameters.

2.  Have the right technology

Best Practices

These days there is a range of available technologies that help you track and monitor temperatures. A great example of available solutions is those offered by Varcode. Varcode enables you to track and monitor the temperature of your products with their Smart Tag and Scanning Suite. They also give you a data dashboard in their management suite so that you can drill down into the details. No matter what technology you use, the focus is on being able to access the information you need so that you can make better decisions in the future.

3.  Make a process out of EVERYTHING

In the business of temperature-sensitive product transport success is linked to how well you can repeatedly deliver quality. This can only be done when every possible step in the process is documented and standardized to limit human error and variability. It takes time to create these standard operating procedures (SOPs) but they pay off in the long run. Keep in mind that while a process may work today, it may need to be reviewed and adjusted in the future.

4.  Choose efficiency over convenience

There is no shortcut to quality, so don’t bother trying to cut corners. Take the time to plan the most efficient route, taking into account possible delays or obstructions. It is also more efficient to have the right people with the right expertise on the job. This   means opting to pay for top talent or investing in training.

5.  Make the process transparent

As with most things in business, the key to success is communication. All along the product journey, there are various stakeholders who each have a role to play in ensuring that products remain high quality. The best way to make the process transparent is to have a plan in place at the beginning that all stakeholders have access to. Once everyone agrees, it’s ideal to have a live data-driven dashboard that all parties can monitor during the process. There will be times when things don’t go as planned, and communication is the only principle that can save the day.

Temperature danger zone

You know that cooking or heating products kill bacteria and that freezing products halts bacterial growth, but what about the temperatures in between? Between the two extremes, there is a large temperature range that is harmful to temperature-sensitive products; it’s called the danger zone.

To be more specific there are effectively five key temperature ranges to be aware of:

  1. Freezing: 0°F - 32°F
  2. Refrigeration: 32°F - 40°F
  3. Danger zone: 40°F - 140°F
  4. Hot-holding: 135°F
  5. Cooking: 160°F - 175°F

It is all-important to know what the ideal temperature is for each product that you are transporting, but knowing these ranges can provide you with a helpful rule of thumb for all your operations and when communicating with your stakeholders. Every person who comes into contact with a temperature-sensitive product needs to be able to recognize when a product has entered the danger zone and be able to report this to relevant parties.

Parting words

Cold chain management is a tricky business, with new challenges and amazing innovations coming up every day. The best practices are those that work for you and your clients. If nothing else, the best thing you can do is stay abreast with industry changes. If you want to explore some top-quality cold chain management technology, check out Varcode’s solutions today. In a world where information is a competitive advantage, Varcode is the key to getting the right one.

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