The power of 5: our top best practice recommendations for the cold chain                

4th January 2019


OK, maybe best practice is an over-used word these days. Another ambiguous addition to the marketer’s dictionary. But actually, what it represents is real, practical value, born from hard-won experiences and proactive advice– mixed with the latest technologies and industry thinking.

That’s why at Thermo King we thought it might be useful to assess the latest best practices for avoiding spoilage in the cold chain, and below you’ll find our top recommendations.

Best practice #1: Put specialist knowledge at the centre of the equation

Yes it’s an obvious one to start with, but arguably the most important. Cold chains are becoming increasingly complex, and present many opportunities for things to go wrong. Often too, there is a fine marginbetween the perfect delivery and a compromised load.

The length of the journey, the different modes involved, different product temperature sensitivities etc: all represent potential issues, and mastering such concerns place a premium on the value of trusted know-how.

That means experts who ‘get’ temperature control; who can work with shippers, distribution centres, and clients to help balance and fine-tune every delivery – every time.

Best practice #2: Turn coordination into a shared responsibility

A cold chain is all about maintaining temperature integrity, which in turn requires high levels of integration and coordination.

Each process step and partner – from farmer/harvester or producer to the ultimate seller – should therefore be encouraged to share responsibility for keeping products fresh.

Equally, such integration should be focused on getting products through the system as quickly as possible.

Vulnerabilities occur when there are delays in handling products, and overcoming these require solid partnerships – not to mention the commitment of all involved to work to the same set of standard, values, and commitment to excellence.

Best practice #3: Always be ready for the unexpected

There can be any number of reasons why a break in the cold chain can happen. This can quickly lead to loads being exposed to extremes of cold or heat and the resulting damage(the standard estimate being that an increase of only 1°C at low temperature levels – reduces shelf life by up to 50%).

This brings us to the topic of contingency planning, which in best practice terms involves:

  • Closely defining rules and responsibilities: and identifying who needs to do what and when in an emergency – as well as the communication required
  • Performing transparent risk assessments: and maintaining an up-to-date view of what could go wrong and the plan to overcome it (stocking additional spare parts, calculating different routes etc.)
  • Testing your readiness to respond: and investing the time and resources needed to trial your contingency plans, run drills, and conduct tabletop/practical drills

Best practice #4: Maintain open communication and visibility

Nobody likes operating blind, and with no clear view of what’s going on out in the ‘field’. That’s why it’s more than just best practice to be able to track progress in real time.

Not only does this give you a better understanding of where each shipment and load is in the ‘chain of custody’ process, but also a detailed picture of any potential problems in the making.

This is the modern world of connectivity, and of telematics products like TracKing from Thermo King. What these products offer is an ability to access real-time temperature, location, and alarms-triggered information from a remote desktop – and therefore the reassurance of knowing rather than hoping.

Best practice #5: Get smarter with capacity

Energy savings is a recurring theme in cold storage because it’s more expensive to cool air than to heat it. The trouble of course is that different products require different temperatures to remain in perfect condition.

Getting this right means more than simply buying the best refrigeration technology on the market.

It also requires shippers, storage centres, third-party logistics suppliers and customers to come together when planning shipment schedules to accommodate those products that demand similar temperature ranges during transport – as well as similar handling and storage requirements.

This will also allow you to choose the cooling technology that caters to that specific set of products.

Build up your own best practice credentials

So these are our top five recommendations. Many more exist of course, but delivering a world-class cold chain today is about getting the basics right, and combining the right technology with the right approach and behaviours.

For the technology ‘bit’ – Thermo King offers an unrivalled range of temperature control solutionsthat cover the length and breadth of national, international, and intermodal cold chains. Find out more by visiting our website.