A cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply chain. Fresh agricultural products, frozen food, dairy and meat product, pharmaceutical drugs, chemical items etc must be continuously monitored throughout the whole supply chain. A breakdown in temperature control at any stage will impact on the final quality and integrity of the product. The stakes in food, pharmaceutical, and chemical cold chains are very high. Improper handling or any breach of recommended temperature/environmental condition, from the production to the consumption cycle, of the food/drug may spoil it before the shelf life expiry date and result in high financial loss, disgruntled consumer and more importantly a food poisoning incident and legal action.
Presence of complex control variables like temperature, humidity, light etc in the cold supply chain and risks associated with distribution process demands close monitoring of the product from the factory to the consumer.
Once the product leaves the manufacturer’s premises it enters a complex distribution systems that involves many handoffs, outsourced service providers, and supply chain intermediaries, prior to reaching the customer. It is during this complex logistics circuits when most temperature excursions occur. A comprehensive model providing product’s environmental attributes (temperature, humidity) data during the entire supply chain is required to guide the decision makers in increasing the efficiency and profitability of the process.
Earlier the only way to verify and document the condition of the product was physically check the shipment. This method was not efficient enough and there is no way to determine in which leg of the distribution the problem occurred. This left no scope of tracking down the root cause.
In most of the cases, temperature & humidity sensors, and temperature data loggers are placed in the transportation vehicle, containers or even pallets. However, if the load is moved from the pallet then the data loggers cannot track the condition of the box.
In complex setup RFID (Radio frequency Identification) systems are integrated with sensors to enhance the tracking. RFID tags are attached with the outer pack of the product to receive information in more granular detail. These sophisticated systems records the environmental conditions including time and date as well as specific identification and whenever the environmental conditions are out of the recommended range the system could sent the SMS message to the administrators. This enables the business to act quickly and further analyze the problem area of the supply chain.
It is a joint responsibility of the manufacturer, distributor, Warehouse Company, and retailers to ensure that the product is reached to the end user without compromising the quality.