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The cold chain refers to the transportation of temperature sensitive products along a supply chain through thermal and refrigerated packaging methods and the logistical planning to protect the integrity of these shipments.
In the supply chain, the cold chain is a small part, usually cold chains are used for frozen foods, medical supplies, and fragile items such as meat, medicines, ice cream, fish etc. It refers to a systematic logistics program, in which the temperature sensitive products are always delivered and kept in the cold (low temperature) environment in the whole process, for example: storage, production, transportation, distribution, and marketing to ensure quality & safety foods, quick delivery and reduce wear and tear of logistics.
Usually the cold chain depends on four aspects of frozen storage, frozen processing, refrigerated transportation and distribution, and finally frozen sales. Cold Chain has four stages: refrigeration processing, refrigeration distribution, refrigeration storage and refrigeration sale. And in every stage, there are standard operating procedures to ensure the safety and quality of the foods from the processing till to customers or consumers.
Agricultural and fishery products during transport often require low temperature conditions of transport, in order to meet the basic performance of the product. Enterprises must change the product logistics and transport conditions for cold chains that can be applied to the field of logistics and ensure its quality.
Logistics and transport enterprises are in the process that the performance and characteristics of the product are difficult to effectively preserve. Enterprises must set up a good supervision system and the cold chain transportation equipment. Professionals need to assess the regulatory system.
The success of industries that rely on the cold chain comes down to knowing how to ship a product with temperature control adapted to the shipping circumstances. Cold chain operations have substantially improved in recent decades, and the industry can answer the requirement of a wide range of products.
Cold chain systems for processed foods have a slightly different flow. The activities involved in processing are usually transformative in nature and involve adding ingredients or preservatives or altering the natural characteristics of the food product.
U.S. web retailer and supply chain specialist, Amazon, recently struck a deal with a major U.K. grocer to expand same day delivery of groceries in the country. The complexities of warehousing and delivering fresh products directly to consumers are beyond the specialty of most retailers, and these services are mostly contracted to cold chain service providers.
Cold chains in the United States are designed to meet high demands from businesses, consumers, and regulators. Businesses require products that meet the level of quality of their business structure; consumers demand the highest quality available based on the price they are willing to pay; and regulators, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
These set requirements and minimum safety standards for the handling of many consumer foods and temperature-sensitive products. These market demands have resulted in a competitive U.S. industry, with standards that lead the world in terms of safety and integrity.
Improving technologies in cold transportation has created a shift in transport modes; flowers are increasingly being transported to the U.S. via ocean going vessels, rather than the traditional, more expensive air transportation option.
The US Cold chain Logistics market can be segmented into following categories for further analysis.
The US Cold chain Logistics market has been aiming at improving the technological advancement being integrated within the possible operational capabilities. This has been of major importance in recent years. There have been various levels of integrations done which are based upon the sensory and operational mobility capabilities of the Cold chain logistics.
The latest inclusion into the US Cold Chain Logistics Market has been the Phase Change Materials which are used as part of Dairy And Meat Transportation requirements within the country. PCMs are passive thermal energy storage materials used in the thermal packaging industry to maintain a temperature-sensitive product within the manufacturer’s required temperature range during all transportation phases (i.e. from manufacture to end user).
Typical temperature requirements for temperature sensitive products range from -80°C to +40°C, the most common being at a point between 2°C and 8°C. PCMs are commonly used in combination with water-based refrigerants (or by themselves) within insulated shipping containers. To increase the duration of thermal control within a given temperature range, PCMs are normally selected such that their phase change temperature is within the required temperature range of the product being shipped.
Thermal Storage System (TSS) has been the latest renewable energy integration into the supply prospects of cold chain which converts the Electrical or Solar Energy whenever it is available into Cold Energy. This Cold Energy can then be used to chill the fresh produce as and when required.The TSS provides both back-up cooling power as well as instant chilling capability which eliminates the Diesel Generators from the Village Level Chilling Centres and helps retain the freshness and quality of perishables.
Some food manufacturers have built this capability right into their packaging. MillerCoors, for example, uses temperature-sensitive ink to show when products are at optimal temperature. These inks are also used on milk cartons to indicate the temperature has fallen out of safe range.
Americold Logistics, based in Atlanta, GA, is by far the largest firm in the cold storage and 3PL logistics sector. The company operates 1.1 billion cubic ft. of refrigerated storage, with more than 230 facilities. Other major refrigerated warehousing providers include Lineage Logistics, Swire Cold Chain Logistics, Preferred Freezer, Nichirei Logistics and Burris Logistics. Lineage, based in California, primarily operates in the U.S. with 600 million cubic feet of storage.
United Parcel Services’ (UPS) subsidiary, UPS Supply Chain Solutions, is one of the top 3PL service providers, though UPS’ primary focus is as an express delivery service provider that transports more than 17 million packages per day to over 220 countries. UPS has developed Temperature True, a packaging and transportation system that provides services to more than 500 healthcare companies.
Another major U.S. service provider is FedEx, which delivers to more than 220 countries. With more than 56,000 vehicles and over 650 aircraft. FedEx has also rapidly developed logistics hubs throughout the world catering to temperature-sensitive transportation and uses a system called SenseAware that can monitor product vitals of humidity, barometric pressure, location, light exposure, at temperatures as low as – 238°F.
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