How Temperature Monitoring Systems Optimize Cold Chain Logistics

March 14, 2023
Cold Chain
Thermometer in the sky

‘Cold chain logistics’ is just another way to refer to the journey that temperature sensitive products go on as they travel from a source to an end destination. The journey of the cold chain often involves many transfers and exchanges between numerous stakeholders. It's’ never as simple as going from ‘A’ to ‘B’.

As transporters, you need to have some control over the management of your cold chain. From route planning to selecting the right people, packaging, and technology, you need to be able to track and monitor your products throughout the journey. Ultimately, the successful management of your cold chain hinges on your monitoring systems, so let’s find out more about how these systems work.

What is a temperature monitoring system?

Implementing a temperature monitoring system is about putting various tools and processes in place to manage the cold chain. It’s not one single product or intervention but the sum of multiple solutions under one, cohesive system. The goal of a temperature monitoring system is to ensure a consistent and uninterrupted chain of refrigerated steps.

Cold Chain Optimization Process

Some of the elements that need to be considered in a temperature monitoring system are:

  1. Products - Do you understand the unique requirements of the products that you are transporting?
  2. Personnel - Do all the people involved throughout the process know what they need to do to ensure quality?
  3. Technology - Do you have the right technology in place to track, monitor, and analyze your product’s temperature?
  4. Processes - Are there enough processes in place along the way and are they efficient?

How you design your monitoring system is unique to your context, but the result has to be the same; uncompromised temperature-sensitive products. In many cases, fluctuating temperatures can lead to unnecessary spoilage or even cause products to become hazardous.

Monitoring your cold chain logistics

It comes down to accountability. The cold chain being as complex as it is, transporters cannot afford to leave the temperature of their products to chance. The cold chain is actually only the essential beginning of the product’s lifecycle. A product can only be useful if it is both available and usable. If the cold chain fails, the product is likely to become useless before it even reaches consumers.

All too often, the cold chain is impacted by unexpected, external factors, which can derail even the most well-planned cold chain journey. Examples of these external factors include:

  • Changes in traffic on the route
  • Destructive weather
  • Delays up or down the value chain
  • Technological malfunctions
  • Human error

These are just a few of the common and mostly unavoidable elements that transporters contend with. When these situations arise it is crucial to have a temperature monitoring system in place to ensure that products are still fit for delivery and are not at risk of being spoiled.

The key elements of your temperature monitoring system

If you’re already in the business of transporting cold products, you are likely to have a number of systems in place already. However, a monitoring system is never ‘complete’ because it needs to adapt to changes and innovations in the industry. Here are the key elements of a temperature monitoring system so that you can find potential areas of improvement within your operations.  

Data Analysis Digital

1. Temperature monitoring technology

Technology is the backbone of any system these days. While you can get away with manual systems to a point, they are simply not scalable and are far too open to human error. Your monitoring systems need to include the right technological solutions for your needs. This does not mean that you need to over-engineer your logistics. Simple temperature indicators like SmartTags and scanning technology on your products can take the guesswork out of your operations.

2. Data analysis

Of course, better tracking and monitoring technology generate more useful data to analyze. Data analysis is one of the most important skills to develop if you want your monitoring systems to work for you. This means bringing all the disparate pieces of data into one place so that you can derive actionable insights.

3. Control mechanisms

So if you’re producing useful data and analyzing it to make better decisions, the next step is knowing what to do with the information. As discussed earlier in this article, you never know what might happen once the journey starts so you have to have contingency mechanisms in place to manage unforeseen circumstances. For example, what will you do if a vehicle breaks down and your cold products are at risk of sitting in the truck for hours? Difficult situations will inevitably happen at some point so you might as well plan your response in advance.

4. Communication channels

The entire cold chain is made up of people who have specific roles to play and you need to be able to communicate with them as part of your monitoring system. If there is a change in plan or information that needs to be highlighted, you need communication channels to get everyone on the same page quickly. Who are the first responders that you need to have on speed dial all along the cold chain? Have you agreed on ways to communicate?

It’s easy to see how these four steps support your temperature monitoring systems, but they are also inextricably linked. Your technology generates the data for you to analyze, which helps you to make data-driven decisions that you will communicate with your stakeholders. The better you build each step, the better the whole.

Which system is right for you?

Each component of a temperature monitoring system has myriad solution options. The industry is full of incredible technologies and data management solutions for you to choose from. The success of your cold chain logistics comes down to how well your temperature monitoring systems integrate, not any one step.

Varcode is becoming an industry standard because of its suite of tools that provide the data you need to run an excellent monitoring system. If you’re interested in updating your temperature monitoring system, or want to upgrade aspects of it, get in touch with Varcode today.

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