Cold Chain Logistics And Refrigerated Transportation Are Experiencing A Period Of Unprecedented Growth.
New technologies have made it possible to get fresh, perishable foods from one side of the world to the other without putting the integrity of the foods at risk.
Similarly, state-of-the-art temperature controlled containers and trailers make it possible to get valuable, perishable biopharmaceuticals to areas of need.
But as much as we talk about refrigerated transportation, we often forget to talk about one of the aspects of cold chain logistics that makes it possible: cold storage and refrigerated warehousing.
After reading this post, you will know about how cold storage is used, the different types of cold storage, and how refrigerated warehousing makes the entire cold chain possible.
What Is Cold Storage? An Example Of Refrigerated Warehousing In Action
Cold storage is the storage of any temperature controlled substance that prevents that substance from decaying or not adhering to laws and regulations that apply to that item.
Cold Storage Can Appear In A Variety Of Places:
1. A manufacturer may have a private cold storage facility to warehouse products before they make their way to end users.
A Minneapolis-based meat packer has a private on-site cold storage facility and operates a private fleet.
2. End users may have cold storage facilities to store temperature controlled products after they’ve received them but before they have a need to use them.
A large Chicago hotel chooses to purchase food in bulk and store all temperature sensitive items in an on-site private cold storage unit.
3. Most commonly, cold storage is outsourced to a third party logistics provider (3PL), where products stay until they are ready to be shipped to an end user.
A large Wisconsin cheese producer opts to use a 3PL’s cold storage facility to store all of its temperature sensitive dairy products.
Cold Storage: An Exercise In Precision
Because of the regulation surrounding refrigerated freight, cold storage is much more complex than its dry counterpart.
Refrigerated warehousing tends to be more costly, so many manufacturers opt to outsource their cold storage to third party logistics providers.
As demand for the transportation of refrigerated goods increases, so does demand for value-added services such as repack operations and consolidation. Customers tend to have more stringent requirements for the 3PLs they are outsourcing to, since retailers and end users have higher expectations when it comes to pallet building and traceability.
Because of these heightened expectations, 3PLs tend to have a lower return on investment for cold storage, and have to do everything possible to optimize their processes and facilities in order to remain profitable.
Cold Storage Facility Customization
Since customers have an increasing number of specific demands based on the needs of their end users, many 3PLs struggle to operate one-size-fits-all warehouses.
With so many diverse customer needs, it’s become more common for 3PLs to create custom cold storage facilities for their customers.
While this allows 3PLs to work more efficiently based on the needs of a particular customer, it can be a risky endeavor, as it can be hard to lock price-sensitive customers into long-term contracts.
Some Additional Problems with Cold Storage
Refrigerated Goods Have Different Requirements
Diverse customer needs are shaping the evolution of the cold storage industry—and these needs are not limited to added value services.
They also have to do with the nature of the goods themselves being stored .
Different products have varying shelf lives, ranges of temperatures they are required to be stored at, and amounts of time they can spend between the cold storage facility and a transportation vehicle before spoiling.
Some examples of products that may require cold storage or at least a temperature controlled warehousing solution:
- Perishable nutrient products
- Perishable food (vegetables, fruits, meat and seafood, dairy products)
- Flowers and plants
- Biopharmaceutical products
To make things even more complex, there are food and product safety regulations attached to each type of product that requires temperature controlled transportation and storage.
Energy efficiency leads to another cost-related concern.
Studies have shown that refrigerated warehouses and cold storage facilities can be incredibly inefficient if they aren’t equipped with the highest quality doors and insulation, and if the warehousing process isn’t optimized to limit exposure of the open warehouse to the outside world.
There are many different types of cold storage, from individual units to entire dedicated facilities.
Let’s explore some of these types:
Refrigerated containers are the most basic and often the most cost effective option for cold storage of small quantities of temperature sensitive products. They can also be mobile, which gives them the advantage of extra flexibility.
Blast Freezers And Chillers:
Blast freezers and chillers are ideal for companies who need to quickly cool and store food before it reaches its end consumer. It’s common for some larger restaurants and catering companies to use them.
Cold rooms are exactly what they sound like. They are a larger alternative to the options listed above.
Pharmaceutical Grade Cold Storage:
Hospitals and research institutions may make use of pharmaceutical grade cold storage units. These units are equipped with extra features that make them ideal for biopharmaceuticals, blood, and certain vaccines.
Plant-Attached Cold Storage:
Plant attached cold storage is the preferred option for some manufacturers who want to keep their cold storage in house. Products can be transported via conveyor straight from manufacturing to a dedicated cold storage facility on-site.
Dedicated Custom Cold Storage Facilities:
As we discussed above, many companies that use cold storage have complex needs based on the nature of their products and the preferences of their end consumers. Those who choose to avoid the cost of an on-site facility will opt to use a custom or dedicated cold storage facility provided by a 3PL.