Temperature controlled distribution heavily relies on a well-structured, risk-averse environment. The goods that require movement in these controlled settings are prone to perishing and deterioration without the right factors. And, the negative impacts of this can be significant, from destroying brand reputation to causing potential harm to the health of end customers. Reducing risk is a key section of your temperature-controlled logistics and a key consideration for our specialist team at Iceotemp. In this guide, we’ll discuss these risks and the steps that can be taken to reduce them as best possible.

Why Are Risks So Challenging in the Cold Chain?

Temperature-controlled logistics is based on the premise that goods can be transported and stored in fixed environments. This relates to both temperature and often humidity too. The goods delivered through these specialist means, such as freshly cut flowers, vaccinations and fresh meats, need consistent temperatures to prevent bacteria growth or spoiling. The challenges that arise if any of these situations occur are significant.

Florists rely heavily on the freshness and visual appeal of their cut flowers to drive business. Many invest time and energy into flower shows, establish large contracts with supermarkets or suppliers and commit to event preparation with the trust of their end customers. In the wrong environments, cut flowers can wilt quickly, turning brown and drooping down.

Fresh meats and dairy products are packaged in controlled environments to prevent spoiling. Raw meats, for example, should never be left to sit for extended periods. Hygiene legislation states that slaughterhouses store meat at temperatures below 7°C before it is transported. Otherwise, the risk of bacteria growing, including e.coli.

Medicines are extremely prone to temperature changes and need to stay at frozen/low temperatures right up until they are administered. The majority of vaccines need to remain under 5°C to keep their effectiveness. Too hot or too cold and their immunogenicity is negatively affected. Some vaccines even become unsafe to use, posing a risk to the recipient when administered.

Any fluctuations in temperature can have devastating impacts and therefore, risks within the cold chain need to be properly managed on every single trip.

Most Common Risks in Temperature-Controlled Distribution

While risks vary between each individual trip, it can be effective to look at some of the most common ones when working out a management plan.

Vehicle Breakdown

Any temperature-controlled shipment is heavily reliant on the vehicle it is being transported in. Specialist vans, such as those in our own fleet here at Iceotemp, have a wealth of technology that allows specific temperatures to be set and monitored at all times. While they are designed to be as reliable as possible, there is always the possibility of breakdown and malfunctions. For example, a lack of proper maintenance could mean that essential components – like vents that circulate air for cooling or wear-and-tear within the vehicle storage system – can all contribute to poorly managed environments during transport.

Equally, simple things like a lack of fuel or extended drive times due to the need to fill up can have a significant impact. Older vehicles may be harder to fix with a lack of availability of spare parts.

Reducing the risk of vehicle breakdowns

Those within the food chain must have measures in place to manage their vehicles – as one of their most important assets. Regular maintenance and servicing should be mandatory, as well as additional regular checks to ensure the specialist equipment is running at optimal capacity. Businesses should look at refreshing or leasing new vehicles when they become older to prevent a lack of new parts from becoming an issue.

Human Error

While the majority of the cold chain relies on technology, there is always room for human error. This covers a wide span of issues from poor employee training through to non-compliance or refusal to follow your internal procedures. Human error extends to activities such as leaving the refrigerator open to speed up delivery times or using damaged containers for convenience. Both of these situations increase the potential for spoiling and fluctuation damage.

Reducing the Risk of Human Error

With any working environment, and specifically in the cold chain industry, the best way to reduce these risks is to provide clear, consistent and repeat training to all employees in your business. Auditing your processes can give higher management a clear understanding of how well the correct procedures are being implemented and where improvements can be made.

Lack of Uniform Infrastructure

The best technology in the world can still fall short. A lack of appropriate infrastructure to support your business could lead to significant risks.

For example:

Managing Risks for Your Business

With the manner of risks being so varied, it pays to have certain roles in place to help manage these continuously.

Our top suggestions are:

  • Ensure you have the right experience or are working with a highly experienced temperature-controlled logistics company.
  • Establish your capacity requirements and ensure the business you work with can accommodate these easily.
  • Plan in advance. Allowing each shipment plenty of time gives you the space to identify any complications before they arise.
  • Train employees/contractors on the importance of proper loading and unloading – one of the most sensitive times for temperature fluctuations.
  • Review your operating procedures regularly. Keep in mind that technology is constantly evolving and having a clear understanding of your current process will help identify places where improvements can be made.

At Iceotemp, we have a highly experienced team of specialists alongside a fleet of temperature-controlled vehicles and refrigerated transport to support your logistics. From samples for food tasting through to the delivery of vaccinations, the demands on your cold chain are at the height of our importance. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the services that we provide, please do get in contact with us here today.