Overcoming Food Transportation Issues

January 16, 2023
Food & Bev
An employee looking at a refrigerated food product

Only those in the transportation industry can fully appreciate just how much goes into making sure that shelves are stocked for customers. What looks like a simple process of stocking shelves at a local pharmacy or grocery store involves a long and complex product journey. This is especially true for F&B business owners who have to ensure that their produce stays fresh and safe for consumption. When shipping temperature sensitive products, every minute counts.

Often, the success or failure of shipping temperature-sensitive products comes down to how well you can control the controllable and adapt to unforeseen circumstances. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the challenges that you can face and what can be done to mitigate these risks.

The Most Common Food Transportation Issues

There are generally multiple phases that a product must go through to go from where it is produced to a retail environment where it can be purchased. For example, a product could travel between each of the following steps:

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  1. Raw material production
  2. A processing facility
  3. Packaging
  4. Storage or warehousing
  5. A retail store
  6. A consumer’s home

From the moment the raw product is made ready for use, it must travel for extended lengths of time and at varying temperatures. This creates a challenge for transporters who are responsible for ensuring that these products meet the quality expectations of their customers and their end consumers. Many variables can be controlled, like what products are shipped, when, and by whom, but challenges can arise when you least expect them. Here are a few examples of challenges that you have likely had to face when shipping temperature-sensitive products.

1.  Technical malfunctions

We can be thankful that a lot of food transportation issues have been solved by technology, but that does not mean that we can be complacent. In reality, technology is only as powerful as its management and maintenance. For example, being able to maintain a consistent temperature within a refrigerated vehicle makes all the difference. If the refrigeration unit is even a degree off, food products can spoil and the business can lose a lot of money in the process.

2.  Human error

You know that supply chains are made up of various businesses, suppliers, and customers, each with teams of people with specific jobs to do. Many of the challenges faced by transporters come down to how well people can perform their roles. Human error anywhere in the product journey causes a drastic ripple effect all along the supply chain. For example, it can be difficult for employees to read traditional color change indicators that use colors to show the product’s current temperature. These indicators are not always easy to read and can show confusing results. Any confusion or misreadings can put an entire shipment of products at risk and cause huge financial losses.

3.  Unreliable information

Similar to the previous point, a lot hinges on our ability to communicate effectively with all stakeholders at each phase of the product’s journey. A communication breakdown almost always leads to transportation issues. The information also needs to be correct and reliable to be useful. Even if the technology and human factors are correct, if the information does not provide the insights you need to make decisions, you are likely to encounter problems.

4.  Lack of process

Lastly, the result is only as successful as the processes that got it there. The more robust the processes throughout the product journey, the less you need to rely on the accuracy of technology and humans. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Processes can be industrial scale or as simple as standard operating procedures (SOPs). No matter how big or small a process is, it is important to document and communicate it to drive efficiency as the business changes.

The Impact of Food Transportation Issues on Businesses

We have looked at a few potential issues that can arise when shipping temperature-sensitive products, and what can happen if issues are not managed. Repercussions range from small to devastating depending on the context, but all negatively impact the business involved.

Money surrounding Analytical Arrow

One of the most severe consequences of unmanaged transportation issues is damage to the business. Businesses can be made to undergo legal proceedings or pay hefty fines if products are damaged or spoiled through mismanagement. There can also be financial losses and reputational losses caused which can be difficult to resolve.

Temperature-sensitive products can become a health and safety issue for staff and end consumers if they are not managed correctly. It can also cause massive food waste and loss which impacts the environment.

These are not outcomes that any organization can afford to have to deal with. That’s why protocols need to be put in place to mitigate risks and ensure that quality standards are upheld throughout the product journey.

Food Transportation Best Practices

Thankfully, almost all food transportation issues can be mitigated through tried and tested technology like that provided by Varcode, for example. There are also industry standards and best practices that you can follow. Here are a few examples:  

  • Track and monitor the temperature of products throughout the product journey.
  • Ensure that products are transported by the appropriate vehicle and vessel at all times. Take into consideration the size, temperature, airflow, and structure when selecting a mode of transport.
  • Be strict about hygiene. Food products are very sensitive to bacteria and germs, so make sure that surfaces are clean and that employees regularly wash their hands before handling goods.
  • Get the right people for the job. There are so many important touch points along the product journey and you cannot afford to have untrained or unskilled workers along the way.

If you want to improve your temperature monitoring practices, check out Varcode. Varcode specializes in temperature monitoring solutions that give you all the data you need at your fingertips. If you have the right technology and a long list of robust

best practices, you are likely to be able to adapt to any food transportation issues that may arise. Contact us and request a free consultation today.

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