Speaking of the Cold Chain, perhaps it is a strange word to the people. What is a Cold Chain? Is it a metal chain which taken out from the refrigerator? Or it is a chain store selling the ice-cream? The answers are surely wrong.
A Cold Chain is a temperature-controlled supply chain. The Cold Chain involves the transportation of temperature sensitive products along the supply chain through thermal and refrigerated packaging methods and the logistical planning to protect the integrity of these shipments. The definition of Cold Chain is first used in the food industry, many of the food products like the vegetable, ice-cream, or some sea food have to be kept in some special conditions, and thus the Cold Chain Transportation appeared. Now the Cold Chain are applied not only for the food industry, but also it has a large scale of application in the medical or aerospace area. And also with the globalization of trade, the Cold Chain becomes more and more important.
There are several means in which cold chain products can be transported, including refrigerated trucks and railcars, refrigerated cargo ships as well as by air cargo.
We can see a whole Cold Chain process through the figure as follows:
The cold chain is maintained over several transport activities, but with two potential breaches in its integrity. In the first case, it could involve the cargo being left exposed during the unloading process. In the second case, the product could have been stored in a refrigerated warehouse at a temperature below the product’s storage specifications. So the temperature should be controlled strictly of each activity of the logistics process, otherwise the final logistics aim will fail even with a tiny negligence.
Therefore, many technologies are used during a Cold Chain. The major cold chain technologies in providing a temperature controlled environment during transport involve:
- Dry ice.
- Gel packs.
- Eutectic plates.
- Liquid nitrogen.
Not only the technologies, the proper transportation season, the distance, the transportation ways, the product stack ways also should be considered during the Cold Chain logistics process.
The setting and operation of cold chains is dependent on the concerned supply chains since each cargo unit to be carried has different requirements in terms of demand, load integrity and transport integrity. Because of the additional tasks involved as well as the energy required for the refrigeration unit transportation costs for cold chain products is much higher than regular goods. The ongoing rise in standards of living and economic specialization will remain important drivers for years to come in the growing demand for perishable goods and the cold chain logistics supporting their transport.
Thanks for the Cold Chain, the people in an inland country also can eat the fresh seafood; thanks for the Cold Chain, the patient can get the fresh organ for transplant; thanks for the Cold Chain, makes the life fresher!