Steps business can take to minimise refrigeration supply chain disruptions

It is no secret that the food industry as well as temperature-controlled storage/distribution systems are experiencing serious difficulties all around the world. With so many businesses facing financial challenges and environmental pressures, keeping their food fresh is undoubtedly becoming a logistical nightmare. 

So what is actually happening? The first set of challenges the food and refrigeration industry faced, comes from 3 changes put in place by Su Dakin, who is the head of Food Safety and Quality at British Sugar. Su spoke about these changes in 2021 at the Institute of Food Science and Technologies spring conference.  

One of the first challenges she addressed was the exposure of products to warm, humid air during docking, loading and unloading. Su states that forward-thinking businesses should build modified docks in order to avoid their food spoiling or becoming inedible.  

The second challenge that the Head of Food Safety and Quality addressed was the accepted storage temperatures. Prior to this frozen food could be acceptably stored at -18°c. Dakin suggests that this figure should be changed to -15°c in order to begin saving energy and help to prevent global warming. Su Dakin states that -18°c is simply wasteful and greedy because it prolongs the shelf life of the product but contributes to global warming due to the energy being used. 

The last challenge put in place by Su Dakin focused on the security of the goods being transported by the drivers, who are responsible for the goods they transport but have no part in the docking process. Dakin wants more security and surveillance added to trucks in order to prevent illegal migration and other unlawful activities. 

And how is this impacting businesses? Most of these challenges will be very hard to put in place due to the notoriously high demand for refrigerated foods being transported and can cause many problems for businesses planning on obtaining refrigerated goods in this way. Installing modified docks is expensive and time-consuming and can drastically slow down businesses that need to stock cold foods.

The same goes for changing the storage temperatures. This is a lengthy process and will be hard to find transportation that has put these changes in place, it also reduces the shelf time of the product itself. The final change will also be very expensive and time-consuming to put in place, as added surveillance and checks can decrease the time it takes for stock to be delivered and make the process much slower and more expensive. 

The current pressures on the food and refrigeration supply chains are having a strong impact across the globe.

The main problems countries are facing

The spread of coronavirus has drastically slumped the refrigerated goods shipping industry and caused problems and shortages worldwide. 

Brexit put even more strain on the United Kingdom as they lost trade deals with some members of the European Union, while in the EU all trade deals would be free of tax or tariff charges as if they were the same country.

Brexit also brought some non-shipping related problems as well. Being part of the European Union meant that citizens of each country could work and live in any other EU country with ease, making cheap labour very accessible. It also provided a boost to tourism as citizens wouldn’t have to apply for travel visas. 

For the rest of the European Union having the UK leave is good because there is only one currency involved with the Great British Pound no longer being necessary. With the UK being one of the biggest 3 economies in the world this also offers more leverage to the EU now they are gone.

The UK may also benefit from Brexit because they can create their own deals without having to worry about the EU.

How are these issues having a global impact?

With lots of supply goods coming from China, believed to be the origin country of the coronavirus, lots of shipments were delayed causing trade deals to fall through. This put major strains on the shipping companies that could still operate as they needed to take on more deliveries, causing huge delays all around. 

Brexit means that there will be much stricter rules coming into play when shipments come and go from both the UK and EU. With the trade partnership gone, shipment times can be massively increased and some products may even be banned in the respective economies. 

What changes can businesses make to protect themselves from delays within their own supply chain?

In case Su Dakin’s challenges are put in place it is important that businesses and shipping companies put the correct precautions in place. Finding providers that are happy to comply with the new regulations would be a great start and for the shipping companies themselves, putting these changes in place early is a good call in order to avoid delays.

Ensuring that you are working with Brexit-approved shipping companies, or that your shipping company is Brexit-approved would be a great step to further avoid potential delays. 

Hayley Kershaw writes for KJ Refrigeration, refrigeration & air conditioning experts in the UK.

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