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International Forwarding Association Blog » European Logistics » Unpacking Challenges in Cold Chain Logistics

Unpacking Challenges in Cold Chain Logistics

Designed to maintain a product within a specified temperature range, cold chain freight forwarding is at the heart of many industries, from pharmaceuticals to fresh produce. As the demand for such logistics grows, challenges like maintaining temperature integrity, grappling with high operational costs, and addressing limited infrastructure in emerging markets have come to the forefront, testing the resilience and adaptability of the industry.


Maintaining Temperature Integrity

One of the most challenging obstacles in cold chain logistics is ensuring a consistent temperature throughout the shipping process. Even a slight deviation can render some products useless or unsafe for consumption. Factors such as external weather conditions, equipment malfunctions, or prolonged transit times can compromise the temperature integrity.


High Operational Costs

Cold chain operations are expensive. The specialized equipment, from refrigerated transport vehicles to temperature monitors and data loggers, comes with a hefty price tag. Energy costs associated with maintaining the desired temperatures, especially in extreme climates, can escalate quickly. Furthermore, the cold chain market’s demand for rapid and time-specific deliveries often requires air transport, which is considerably more expensive than sea or land options.


Limited Infrastructure in Emerging Markets

As European businesses expand their reach, emerging markets become attractive destinations for their products. However, many of these regions are still in the process of developing their core infrastructure. Roads in their rural areas might be unpaved or poorly maintained, which can pose significant challenges for cold chain logistics. Vehicles equipped with temperature-controlled units rely on smooth roads to ensure the stable transportation of goods, and these conditions can be hard to come by.

Then there is the challenge of power. Many places in emerging markets grapple with frequent electricity outages that lead to substantial downtime. For a cold storage facility, even a brief power interruption can compromise the temperature equilibrium and jeopardize the quality of goods.


Technological Dependence and Its Vulnerabilities

Embracing modern technology is a double-edged sword for European logistics providers. While state-of-the-art monitoring systems, predictive analytics, and integrated platforms can offer unprecedented visibility and efficiency, increased dependence on technology brings its own set of challenges.

Advanced temperature-monitoring systems, for instance, often rely on sensors. A malfunctioning sensor in a transport vehicle can give inaccurate readings and compromise a shipment’s quality. This makes regular maintenance and calibration essential.

Moreover, supply chain management software, crucial for overseeing a shipment’s location, temperature status, and delivery priority, isn’t immune to issues. A software glitch might prevent timely updates and cause ground staff to miss crucial temperature deviations. Or the automated system may erroneously prioritize one shipment over another and risk the timely delivery of a critical temperature-sensitive product. Such challenges highlight the importance of maintaining and monitoring these technological tools consistently in the cold chain sector.

Cold chain freight forwarding is vital for many sectors, bridging demand with specialized delivery. Yet, as the scope expands, evolving challenges highlight the industry’s need for continuous innovation and vigilant oversight to ensure efficiency.