Cold Chain

Expansion of cold chain logistics and warehousing is paramount to sustainability

cold chain

According to Srinivas Reddy, Vice President, Commercial Refrigeration Business, Blue Star, there are adequate technological developments in refrigeration in cold chain logistics and warehousing to address environmental concerns. These involve the utilisation of eco-friendly refrigerants and highly energy-efficient refrigeration systems.

Please highlight the types of products that require cold chain management and their challenges.
Any perishable product requiring controlled temperature conditions to preserve its freshness needs a refrigerated cold chain throughout its entire supply chain. This cold chain typically starts at the source
and continues to the point of consumption, often referred to as “farm to fork” for items like fruits and vegetables.

Numerous products fall into this category, including milk, dairy items, frozen treats, processed foods, seeds, fruits, vegetables, flowers, seafood, meat goods, vaccines, critical medications, blood storage, and more. Consider any of the above perishable products. For example, the milk we receive each morning embarks on a journey from its origin to a collection centre, then to a processing facility, followed by distribution centres, and ultimately reaching the end consumer, traversing the entire value chain.

Maintaining an uninterrupted cold chain is of utmost importance to ensure both the quality and quantity of these products and to prevent significant losses. However, there exist numerous challenges in handling perishable items of various kinds. Some crucial obstacles are enumerated below:

  • Lack of aggregating scale often becomes an unviable case for investment in cold chains. For example, fruits and vegetables.
  • Lack of direct market linkages due to low modern retail penetration.
  • Too many tiers in distribution channels often result in limited accountability and traceability.

How are sustainability and environmental concerns addressed for cold chain logistics and warehousing operations?  
It’s essential to consider sustainability in light of the significant losses incurred due to disruptions in the cold chain. The production of perishable goods requires substantial resources, including water, soil fertility, human labour, time, capital, and energy. Preserving just one kilogram of product throughout the value chain holds more significance in conserving natural resources and promoting a circular economy. Various reports from analysts indicate that post-harvest losses, which account for about 30 percent of production, translate to billions of dollars in value. Consider the implications of conserving even 10 percent of these losses regarding sustainability.

Consequently, expanding cold chain logistics and warehousing is paramount in achieving sustainability. The positive growth observed in warehousing and logistics is a promising indicator.

Addressing environmental concerns, there are adequate technological developments in refrigeration in cold chain logistics and warehousing. These involve the utilisation of eco-friendly refrigerants and highly
energy-efficient refrigeration systems.

How crucial is maintaining an unbroken cold chain in the pharmaceutical industry, especially when transporting vaccines and other temperature-sensitive medications?
It’s highly pertinent to emphasise that maintaining an uninterrupted cold chain is of utmost importance within the pharmaceutical value chain, particularly for the safe delivery of vaccines, life-saving medications, and other temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products while preserving their original biological properties. It’s not an overstatement to highlight that any lapses in maintaining the refrigerated chain could lead to substantial losses.

Nevertheless, it’s feasible to integrate precise controls that ensure conditions remain within the required range. This includes robust safety measures and alarm systems within the cold chain. In simpler terms, users should be alerted promptly in case of any deviations in conditions. Additionally, implementing real-time temperature monitoring with the capability to record and retrieve periodic logs for compliance checks is also achievable. Equally vital is incorporating some excess capacity within the refrigeration cold chain design. This accounts for unexpected machinery downtime. Hence, potential issues along the value chain can be averted through a well-designed refrigeration system and meticulous execution of the cold chain.

Please discuss advancements in new refrigerants to ensure products are maintained within the required temperature range throughout the cold chain.
On a global scale, there have been technological advancements in refrigerants that offer refrigeration industry participants the opportunity to embrace environmentally friendly and low-GWP Hydrocarbon refrigerants. Several global players have used CO2 as a refrigerant in certain user applications.

India is aligning itself with current regulatory standards by transitioning to new refrigerants. Blue Star, for instance, shifted to the R-290 refrigerant platform in various products utilised in the final leg of the cold chain, such as Chest Freezers, back in 2018.

It’s worth noting that as the country moves towards eco-friendly refrigerants, having adequate research and development infrastructure, testing and validation facilities, knowledge dissemination, and upskilling technicians become imperative.

How can IoT systems improve the monitoring and management of temperature-sensitive products through the supply chain?
In managing any cold chain, two fundamental components stand out: well-designed physical infrastructure and the products being stored. Both necessitate vigilant monitoring and efficient management to achieve optimal utilisation. Connected solutions utilising technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) enable the real-time monitoring of temperature performance. They also contribute to anticipating equipment maintenance needs and ensuring the safety and traceability of stored goods across all points in the supply chain. IoT further plays a role in resource management efficiency, extending equipment lifespan, reducing operational expenses, and facilitating well-informed decision-making to balance supply and demand effectively.

In user segments such as pharmaceuticals and processed foods, the adoption of IoT systems is on the rise due to heightened awareness and stringent industry regulations. However, there remains a significant
requirement for cost-effective IoT solutions to encourage broader adoption across various user segments.

How can collaboration among cold chain providers, warehouses and logistics companies enhance the seamless flow of temperature-sensitive goods?
Paradoxically, there is no seamless ownership of perishables as they progress through the value chain, given that ownership shifts occur at different stages. This situation frequently results in notable losses throughout the entire value chain.

All parties along the value chain should recognise the importance of upholding an uninterrupted refrigeration chain. They should jointly take ownership and coordinate efforts to ensure the secure handling of temperature-sensitive products. As mentioned, reducing wastage is paramount, especially considering the fundamental requirement to guarantee food security and preserve resources for future generations.

What role does regulatory compliance play in the cold chain industry?
Regulatory organisations have clear and defined objectives to advance cold chain systems within the nation. They provide incentives and establish facilitating policies. These agencies are also responsible
for developing protocols for handling and storing different commodities and setting energy standards. The ultimate aim is to ensure consistent processes and adherence to quality standards in alignment with international norms. These proactive measures aid Indian stakeholders in the commodities sector to effectively compete globally.

Please talk about initiatives for upskilling the workforce involved in the refrigerant industry.
Several strategic measures can be implemented to ensure a robust and proficient workforce in the refrigeration industry. First and foremost, fostering collaboration between industry and academia is
essential to continually enhance educational curricula in alignment with the latest technological advancements. Additionally, establishing training incubators through public-private partnerships can  serve as valuable hubs for skill development. Lastly, offering competitive compensation and avenues for career advancement is crucial to attracting and retaining a highly skilled workforce in this sector.


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