Moving temperature-sensitive products through the supply chain presents a variety of challenges for food companies—from storage and transportation to selecting carriers and monitoring loads.
Small variances can produce big headaches. A temperature difference of a few degrees during transportation, a slightly longer stay on a loading dock, or a faulty refrigeration unit can turn a large product investment into a hefty liability.
Working with quality and reliable carriers is crucial. While utilizing ‘load boards’ to access the vast number of trucking companies in the marketplace may seem easier and cheaper to move product, the practice lends itself to many problems. These carriers tend to not be screened for safety, equipment reliability, and service. Each of these areas plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity of the sensitive product being handled.
It’s always a wise to have clear procedures in place. Good business practices follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) to protect temperature-sensitive products. That means being clear about required trailer temperatures, pre-cooling before loading, and following food-grade inspection processes. Be sure that your SOPs are precise and ensure that everyone understands them.
Conduct regular audits, too, say the experts. It’s not enough to have SOPs in place; you have to know that they’re being followed. Self-audits are a good place to start. These monthly check-ups should verify employee training and practices, ensure that you’re compliant with food industry requirements for pest control, warehouse sanitation, and security.
When it comes to storage operations, ensure certification of cold-storage facilities and equipment. Heightened consumer awareness is creating an increased demand for assurances about food safety. An independent third-party firm should regularly certify any facilities storing temperature-sensitive products your company uses to verify that they are clean and that their daily operations comply with the appropriate food safety requirements.
Another tip is to shoot for improved loading and unloading. In many cases, the loading dock is cited as the weakest link in the cold storage supply chain. Some experts think that the loading and receiving practices of warehouse providers pose the biggest threat to temperature-sensitive items.
Finally, make sure to manage supply chain information. Operating a world-class cold supply chain is about information management. The flow of information about freight is just as important as the movement of freight! Understanding when, where, and how your shipments are moving is integral to managing a best-in-class cold supply chain.
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