Tips for an efficient perishable goods supply chain

Perishable goods are those in which quality deteriorates over time due to environmental conditions. Examples include meat and meat by-products, fish and seafood, raw milk and dairy products, fruit and vegetables, pharmaceutical products, and chemicals.  Failing to keep such products at the correct temperatures throughout the supply chain, can result in food loss due to things such as toxic degradation, microbial growth, discolouring and an overall reduction of the economic value of the product.

‘Food losses’ occur within the supply chain, on the farm, during transit, processing and storage, whereas food waste occur during retail and consumer stages. In this article we discuss the challenges facing the supply chain for perishable goods and some of the ways it can be more efficient to minimise food losses. 


Supply Chain Challenges

There are many difficulties associated with the transport of perishable goods, here is a breakdown of the most common ones.

Maintaining the required temperature

Perhaps the most obvious challenge, perishable goods must be kept at a predefined temperature for the entirety of their journey from source to destination.  This requires both temperature controlled transport and cold storage facilities at either end of transit.

Tracking vehicles and temperatures

Drivers are a highly trusted stakeholder in any logistics operations however problems can arise and it is not feasible to expect that they can report their status and location continuously, not to mention regularly checking the product temperature during a route.  As a result, a more automated solution is required.

Get to the destination on time

Perishable food transport equals time critical food transport as even temperature controlled goods have a shelf life.  While other delivery operations can tolerate delays, cold chain logistics cannot.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination can be fatal for the product and result in a significant loss of revenue for the suppliers as well as serious health issues for transportation providers and the customers buying the products. 

Keeping Costs in Check

Costs for efficient, time critical transportation can soar without proper planning and supporting supply chain technology. Tracking and modelling transport data to find the most cost efficient solution, while ensuring cold chain standards are met, becomes impossible with manual efforts.


Creating an efficient supply chain

Use the Right Equipment

When transporting perishable goods, using the right vehicle and container is the starting point. Transportation options include a dry van, refrigerated freight, or a purpose built temperature controlled tanker as used in raw milk haulage. Using the proper equipment can alleviate the risk of delays throughout the supply chain through to the final destination.

Leverage IoT and Telematics technologies

IoT sensors monitor the temperature of the container or tanker during perishable goods shipping. Utilising loT-enabled sensors provides reassurance that the temperature has not increased above or decreased below the required level.  Telematics devices complement this data by also providing real time information on the location and status of vehicles.  This visibility ensures that when issues arise, they can be resolved quickly and without harm to the product..

Accurately plan transport routes in advance

Using purpose built technology designed for specific industries ensures that route plans are accurate and take into account all factors relevant to the supply chain in question.  While it is impossible to control all disruptions – bad weather or traffic congestion could cause a delay along transportation routes – working with the right route planning technology helps to mitigate or avoid such issues.

Maintain visibility into routes throughout the day

When goods become contaminated it is important to act quickly to limit the damage.  Real time alerts provide visibility and help planners to make changes before small issues become large, costly problems.

Model different scenarios to find the lowest cost, highest performing solution

Small changes to perishable goods transportation plans can have a substantial effect on cost.  A 60 minute delay could be the difference between an entire load being spoiled, or saved.  By running multiple scenarios in advance it is possible to plan for all eventualities and know the cost effect of any potential change before it happens.


Nature’s most precious perishable good – Milk

A cow first produces milk at a temperature of approximately 38C. As this is the optimum temperature for bacteria to grow, dairy farmers immediately chill the milk to 4C by transferring it to a chilled bulk milk tank. The milk is then stored for a maximum of 48 hours during which a temperature-regulated milk tanker arrives at the farm to collect the milk.

Once a thermal reading has been taken by the driver, the milk is transported to the processing facility where it is tested for bacteria before being processed into dairy products. The milk is homogenised, pasteurised, packaged and shipped – generally, it’s on shelves around two days after it leaves the farm. As with all perishable goods transport, the primary goal is to minimise the time that milk and dairy products spend on the road, in order to maintain maximum freshness for the consumers.  

At OptaHaul we are proud to contribute to this commitment to dairy consumers by providing the only route optimisation platform on the market dedicated to the dairy supply chain.