Cold chain logistics trends are a major topic of conversation right now. Consumer focus on fresh foods and the growing global pharmaceutical market are both major components of the demand for better cold chain management. On top of these factors, companies must adhere to the more stringent requirements set forth in the Food Safety Modernization Act, which include monitoring the temperature of food and pharmaceuticals at every stage of the supply chain.
New and more affordable technologies have made these requirements easier to meet, as companies are better able to monitor shipments in real-time and ensure they stay at the recommended temperature and humidity levels. However, not all the technology supporting cold chain logistics trends is complicated. Pallet materials also play a major role in ensuring cold chain best practices are followed.
Cold Chain Logistics Trends to Watch
Cold chain management for pharmaceuticals and food products has grown more complex as industries become increasingly globalized. As companies outsource medical compounding tasks overseas or increase production on time-sensitive products like meal prep kits, supply chain managers must be prepared to monitor and record the temperature of these products in real-time. Some of the latest technology making this process easier is:
- Temperature-controlled packaging materials: Dry ice used to be the go-to for keeping packaged products cold, but more economical and effective options have emerged over the past few years. One new alternative for more sensitive products is a FedEx creation called liquid nitrogen dry vapor, which is capable of sustaining temperatures of -150 degrees Celsius for up to ten days. Passive temperature-controlled packaging is also a significant market which is regularly delivering improved solutions for maintaining food and drug products at a constant temperature.
- Third-party logistics: 3PL is a major focus for cold chain managers, as it allows companies to outsource portions of their distribution, warehouse, and fulfillment services. Cold products require special storage and transport solutions, like refrigerated warehouses and trucks. In the past, only companies that had millions to invest in this type of equipment and facilities could afford to enter the market. The rise of 3PL ended this barrier to entry by enabling companies to outsource specific steps in the cold chain such as storage, transport, and distribution.
The shipping platforms that best support these new technologies are already in common use.
The ability to determine that a consistent temperature was maintained at every stage of the supply chain makes all the difference in cold chain logistics management. The technologies that allow managers to track these details in real-time may be new, but the shipping platforms that best support these new technologies are already in common use.
How Plastic Pallets Support Cold Chain Trends
Plastic pallets are ideal for shipping pharmaceuticals and food for many reasons. They’re more hygienic than standard wood pallets, as they’re easy to sanitize and won’t absorb spills that might lead to contamination. High-quality plastic pallets are also more durable than wood, so there’s less chance that splinters or debris will damage product packaging. Plastic pallets are also ideal for supporting the latest cold chain logistics trends. Plastic supports:
- Safe temperature control: Plastic is typically a much better choice in cold temperatures than wood because it’s poreless. Moving pallets of products in and out of temperature-controlled areas creates condensation that may be absorbed by porous wood pallets. When this moisture freezes, it can cause the pallet to crack or swell. If damp wood pallets are left at room temperature, the moisture may encourage the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria, which is difficult to remove completely from wood pallets.
- Tracking through embedded RFID: Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a simple way to ensure pallets are where they are supposed to be at the right time. Used in conjunction with scanning equipment, temperature sensors, and cloud-based SCM systems, RFID helps logistics managers track down exactly where a temperature lapse occurred and prevent it from happening again. Attaching RFID chips to wood pallets isn’t economical, as wood pallets often lose boards in-transit, and the loss of a pallet’s RFID chip would disrupt tracking. Plastic pallets, on the other hand, can be designed with embedded RFID chips that enable reliable tracking.
- 3PL transportation cost control: 3PL companies often charge by the mile and may take weight into consideration. This means that the ability to minimize the weight of a load and pack as much inventory as possible into a single trip could save significantly on shipping costs. While wood block pallets may weigh as much as 85 pounds, plastic pallets are lightweight, often below 50 pounds. By choosing plastic platforms, you’ll ensure that third-party shippers are transporting as much actual product as possible in each load and that loads are no heavier than necessary.
Plastic pallets provide resistance to moisture, reliable RFID tracking, and lightweight durability.
Modern cold chain logistics trends center on the ability to ensure consistent temperatures that keep food and pharmaceuticals safe. Better packing materials, enhanced tracking, and specialized transportation companies make controlling temperatures in the cold chain easier. Plastic pallets support these new technologies by providing resistance to moisture, reliable RFID tracking, and lightweight durability. By choosing quality reusable plastic pallets, supply chain managers can prepare their company for the future of the cold chain.
iGPS rents lightweight, GMA-spec, RFID-enabled plastic pallets that support the latest cold chain logistics trends. To talk about what our pallets can do for your temperature-controlled supply chain, contact us at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.