Back to the Future with Advancer – our inside look at the cold chain in 2023

24th August 2021

What are the short-term trends to watch out for in cold chain logistics, and what can we expect to discover in 2023? To find out we sent our agent forward in time, and can now detail the three main trends in play.

“Greetings from 2023!” That was the first line of a recent communication we received from the future. Well, from our Thermo King R&D Agent sent two years ahead to provide insight into exactly what’s happening – and what we need to prepare for!

The report we’ve got back, addressed to all ‘forward looking Fleet Managers’, focuses in on 3 key trends shaping cold chains – and the role Advancer plays in each. Let’s take a quick look at what these are.

Trend 1: the impact of automation

“The pace of change is certainly accelerating.”

Change that in many instances is being driven by advances in logistics automation (which is itself well on course to double its 2020 market size inside five years, from €43.58 billion to €87.03 billion by 2026.

By the end of 2023, our intrepid explorer suggests that automated vehicles are also beginning to enter the mainstream – certainly in long haul journeys over 200 miles – while also helping to:

  • Overcome a growing shortage of skilled labor (including drivers)
  • Meet the increasingly complex demands of online retailers
  • Embrace the latest technology advances, with AI and Machine Learning tools now within the reach of most logistics firms

As our agent confirms, automation is critical – yet equally it’s nothing without access to real-time data. That’s why Thermo King has developed our latest trailer unit Advancer to be the most connected trailer refrigeration unit on the market to date: Technology that’s able to provide key insights (fuel usage, load conditions, location, and alerts etc.), as well as two-way interaction (i.e. remote management), to support smart automation every step of the way.

Trend 2: the growing importance of multimodal

Following on from automation comes the omnipresent ‘trade corridors’ that exist in 2023. “What’s important now” states our agent, “is the role of multimodal logistics”. First imagined in China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, these corridors are stimulating demand for fresh agri-products and a corresponding growth in refrigerated transport.

Interestingly by 2023 such initiatives are being proactively developed between more localized regions to help stimulate economic activity. What this means in practice is:

  • The close integration of infrastructure such as railroads and highways (between both cities and countries)
  • The linking of storage and distribution centers to wider trade corridors – as part of inter-locking trade relationships
  • An emphasis placed on interoperability and speed, where door openings are minimized to protect product quality and energy consumption

Such trade zones promise to improve the transportation of temperature-sensitive products, while also creating the demand that’s helping maintain the global cold chain’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15%.  

Taking advantage of this potential requires transport refrigeration technology with the flexibility to operate seamlessly throughout each zone. Hence the appeal of the Advancer unit, which is 100% compliant with all European emissions legislation – from NRMM Stage V to urban low emission zones. Units that can cover both the long haul and the last mile, supported by hybrid, power agnostic design and whisper quiet operation.

Trend 3: the changing face of sustainability

A final trend that’s highlighted is how the logistics industry is responding to growing sustainability legislation. As our agent reports, many urban boroughs outside of large cities are also now introducing ultra low emission zones (ULEZ). The trend is very much toward all urban areas being considered ULEZ by the end of the decade.

In response, innovation is once again coming to the fore. A good example comes in the area of fuel, and the development of a synthetic ‘biokersene’ that’s all the rage in aviation in 2023. Equipment manufacturers also support this transition from fossil fuel to sustainable alternatives. Scania for example is already delivering trucks designed for 100% biodiesel operation.

Never to be left behind, Thermo King has always been a leader in delivering sustainable technologies. Now with Advancer, customers can enjoy a modular 48V mild hybrid architecture that can adapt to a variety of different power sources (including shore power, hybrid, axle generator, and even solar panels for battery charging).

Future benefits, available today

Thanks to our R&D agent, 2023 looks a lot clearer. No hover boards or weather control. Not yet. Instead the continued advance of automation and innovation that places the emphasis on smart and fuel efficient technology.

With Advancer, we’re got all these bases are covered – and then some. Just in the area of fuel savings alone, we’re so confident in what you’ll experience we’re even prepared to guarantee them!

That’s why we make the offer that if your new Advancer units don’t reach their fuel-saving targets after year 1, we’ll pay you back the difference.

You can find out more here.