One of the main concerns of the supply chain industry is food safety. With consumer demand requiring specialty food items to be shipped from and to all corners of the world, food supply chains have become far more complex. When you consider the distance that some perishable foods must travel, the need for food safety standards becomes apparent. But while strict regulations control safe food handling throughout the supply chain, accidents still happen. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk to consumers. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the technologies that can ensure the supply chain is complete and that food products get to their destination without spoilage.
How Data Logging Assists
A data logger is a small, battery-operated device that can travel with cargo. It has sensors or probes that measure various conditions at a programmed rate. The data it collects is stored on a microprocessor for retrieval later or for real-time analysis, depending on the capabilities of the device. Read more here about the specifics of data loggers. Data logging has become a critical component of the supply chain, especially in the transportation and storage of food, because data loggers can monitor the temperature, humidity, light conditions, shock incidents, and more of any shipment. Depending on the contents of a given shipment, a different data logger may be used. For example, when sensitive assets like vaccines are transported, data loggers that can track temperature and humidity monitor the integrity of the load. If conditions fall outside of a pre-programmed range, an alert is sent to key personnel to prompt human intervention. Data logging has helped ensure that products travel through the cold chain successfully.
Most shipments get to their destinations without incident, and the information gathered by the data logger can provide valuable insights into the conditions throughout the supply chain. Logistics companies refer to the data from these devices for many reasons. Not only are they verifying that the environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity, remained constant, but the data may point to potential choke points in the supply chain. With food items having to travel vast distances, and today’s trade markets expanding beyond borders, it is vitally important to get perishable products to their destination without delay. A data logger can show where the supply chain may need to be tightened up to provide a smoother transition from storage facilities to transport vehicles. The information that a data logger provides may be used to improve travel routes, change storage locations, alter procedures, and more. When a data logger is used as an extra set of eyes in the supply chain, it improves accountability and ensures products get to where they are going without damage.
The Use of Insulated Shipping Boxes
Insulated shipping boxes can help ensure the safety of conditions tracked by data loggers. Fortunately, there are many different types of shipping boxes available to meet the demands of many different types of cargo. They are particularly useful in the transportation and storage of sensitive assets that require extreme conditions as they travel from Point A to Point B. What makes these shipping containers most valuable is that they are typically made with insulation that is biodegradable and compostable. The insulation is held together by a poly film that lasts roughly 18 months, after which it begins to break down. This provides shipping companies with a significant tool to safely transport items across the globe without fear of damage or spoilage. For fragile cargo, shipping boxes made of polyurethane are the ideal solution to protect assets from potential damage suffered through shock and trauma, because these containers provide additional padding. Other protective shipping solutions include lined envelopes, smaller coolers, and boxes of various sizes and shapes.
Modifications To Transport and Storage Operations
As good as technology is in improving shipping processes, human error still occurs. And unexpected incidents, such as a flat tire on a transport truck or a delayed cargo ship, can create hiccups in the supply chain. The best way to prepare for these unplanned events is to implement modifications to the shipping and storing of products to allow for such a possibility. This is done through many different methods.
Companies will pre-cool containers and shipping boxes before they are loaded for transport. Loading dock temperatures are monitored and random shipment checks are conducted to verify that cold chain regulations have been followed. In some cases, creative storage solutions have been implemented to ensure that products do not spoil en route to their destination. One such creative storage solution is the use of former mining sites for storage. These underground sites have constant temperature levels that result in the correct conditions for the long-term storage of sensitive assets.
Dangers continue to exist in the transportation and storage of food products. With supplies moving to destinations far distant from the place of origin, it only makes sense that precautions are taken to ensure that these products get to the consumer market in the same condition they began their journey in. The cold chain exists to accomplish this. As part of the cold chain, transport boxes and containers, transport vehicles, and storage facilities have to be maintained at temperatures that keep the food from spoiling. This has presented many challenges, but thanks to technology, tools have been created to make the job of getting perishable foods to where they are going without deterioration. The cold chain is a specialized part of the supply network that brings products to consumers, and with the right tools in place, it will continue to be a safe way to move and store sensitive products.