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Best Practices for Temperature-Sensitive Shipments

Mar 18, 2024 10:32:27 AM

Global trade means that goods are often transported over long distances. What does this mean for temperature-sensitive goods? How can you ensure goods are kept at the right temperature? In this blog we highlight the challenges, technological solutions and innovations in cold chain logistics.

Why is temperature important?

In order for goods to reach the supermarket or pharmacy safely, they need to be stored at specific temperatures at all times – including during transport. And that’s not just because melted ice cream or rancid meat simply wouldn’t sell. The fact is that temperature can be critical for perishable goods as well as certain medications or vaccines. In the worst case scenario, failure to keep them at the right temperature can result in fatalities.

As consumers we expect the products we buy to be fresh and safe to consume or use, be it dairy products, meat, seafood, frozen food as well as pharmaceutical products. Common medicines requiring refrigeration include insulin, antibiotics, and vaccines. Thankfully, retailers and pharmaceutical companies have very high quality standards to protect consumer health. The same is true for fast food chains such as McDonalds or Burger King.

The potential health and safety implications mean that controlling the temperature of products in transit is essential. But not all products require the same temperature. Frozen food has to be transported at temperatures between -5, and -20 °C. Fresh, refrigerated products are transported at 4 or 5 °C. And some Coronavirus vaccines had to be kept at temperatures between +2°C and +8°C to ensure they wouldn’t be compromised.

Achieving compliance with regulations

There is a wide variety of technologies to ensure the temperature is just right for any specific product. This begins with refrigerated trucks that may have separate, independent cooling units to ensure temperature-sensitive goods are kept at the right temperature. Traditionally, temperature-control technologies were analog: a temperature probe (i.e. a mechanical sensor) is inserted into the transported liquid, or placed on top of the solid product inside the truck or trailer. It measures the product’s temperature and transmits this information to a data reader (the thermograph) outside the trailer. The data can then be shown to the authorities and to staff taking delivery at the warehouse or distribution centre to prove compliance with relevant regulations.

EU regulations are particularly demanding. They set very specific control standards for goods in transit, and for the vehicles used for refrigerated transport. Carriers are required to keep detailed records of transit routes, cargo and temperature. Drivers have to undergo training for handling temperature-sensitive goods and for operating their truck’s refrigeration system. Last but not least, the relevant documentation has to be readily available for inspection. Compliance with EU standards is essential to avoid penalties. EU regulations need to be implemented by all member states on a national level. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen at the same pace across all EU member states, which can complicate things.

How does innovation help?

As a result, the technology used for temperature control needs to be flexible. At the same time it should enable companies to prove compliance with relevant national regulations. That’s why analog technology is increasingly being replaced by innovative digital solutions. Compact digital thermographs can be used in a wider variety of setups and are easier to maintain, repair, and replace. Plus, they record the temperature of cargo, container, and trailer in real-time and report them to the relevant contact at the destination. That’s particularly important for pharmaceuticals, food retailers, fresh produce deliveries, or supermarket logistics.

In addition, many trailer manufacturers are now providing full solutions to customers, e.g. automatic door lockers that can only be opened with a code. This prevents theft, tampering and damage to the goods inside the trailer. It also prevents people smuggling and the resulting fines for transport companies.

Monitoring and safeguarding temperature-sensitive goods is vital for ensuring quick rectification in case of any deviations. And it doesn’t just keep consumers, but also transport companies and carriers safe from disaster.

Astrata Europe

Written by Astrata Europe

Astrata is a software company with strong foundations in geolocation, telematics and fleet management. We deliver solutions that streamline transport, logistics and supply chain operations and mobile workforce management. Relied upon by over 1200 customers globally, we help you operate at peak performance by improving efficiency and profitability, and increase safety and security.

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