Digital Technology for Cold Chain Distribution

Written By Michelle Lee Ean Wei, DLSM

by Michelle Lee Ean Wei, DLSM

With its capital-intensive equipment, strict temperature requirements, and energy dependence, the cold chain has always been a demanding logistics segment. Now the sector is grappling with additional challenges—from increases in the sensitivity, quality standards, and volume of many of its goods, to continually mounting regulations. The cold chain also faces many of the same issues challenging the entire supply chain: serving the global market, driving out costs, becoming more strategic, and addressing capacity and resource constraints, all while managing the exacting needs of the sector’s precious cargo—primarily food and pharmaceutical products.

The picture below show the Automated Storage and Retrieval System for a freezer warehouse.

Automation for Freezer Warehouses

Warehouses are investing in two kinds of automated storage—automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) and mobile racking—to keep workers warm and happy, reduce energy and increase productivity. AS/RSis an inventory management system that is widely used in manufacturing facilities, distribution centres, and warehouses throughout the United States and the world. AS/RS consists of machines that move up and down one or multiple parallel storage aisles, storing and retrieving products and materials for dissemination to internal and external destinations alike.

The advantages of these systems are numerous. They provide users with increased inventory control and tracking, including greater flexibility to accommodate changing business conditions. These AS/RS systems are comprised of modular subsystems that can be easily replaced to minimize downtime and extend the service life of the overall system. They also reduce labour costs, lowering necessary workforce requirements, increasing workplace safety, and removing personnel from difficult working conditions (such as cold food storage environments). Perhaps most significantly, however, AS/RS systems can produce major savings in inventory storage costs, as vastly improved warehouse space utilization—both vertically and horizontally—creates greater storage density. AS/RS systems are increasingly reliant on wireless technology, as wiring is not always a viable option. Particularly in harsh environments, a reliable wireless network is essential for AS/RSs to get the job done without a hitch.

Mobile Racking

Mobile racking uses conventional selective pallet racks mounted on carriages and moving on running rails and guide rails embedded directly into concrete floor. Since energy expenses in a freezer warehouse are second only to labour costs, it makes sense to double the amount of pallet locations inside the building or reduce the initial building size. This gets us back to the question: does the warehouse owner want to freeze product or freeze aisles? Doubling the amount of pallet positions can reduce the total cost per pallet position by as much as 40% in new construction projects and can reduce utility bills by as much as 50%. High-density storage solutions such as Mobile Racking result in a much smaller building footprint by up to 45%. A significant reduction in energy loss (and utility bills) also ensues, due to the correspondingly smaller roof structure reducing air escape. The other cost savings of a smaller, more efficient mobile racking warehouse include a 35% lower overall investment in construction costs and a reduction of up to 49% in utility costs.

The picture below shows the mobile racking system.

Telematics in Cold Chain Monitoring

Telematics solution in the cold chain management enables fleet managers to get more control of their cold chain fleets by tracking the exact location of their vehicles while allowing their drivers to monitor the precise temperatures of refrigerated cargo saving them considerable costs.

The customized cold chain monitoring solutions provide a detailed history of product temperature through even the most complex cold chains involving manufacturing, refrigerated warehousing, intermodal distribution, and point of use. Through telematics it is accessible for the food industry to trace food items and record environmental conditions throughout the entire supply chain.

Sensors in telematics monitor the temperature and humidity of products. They can detect if the temperature for a specific food item goes above or below the ideal temperature, at any given time, and record that detail. It helps businesses to identify spots in their temperature-controlled supply chain – or cold chain – to maintain the desired quality.

The time for fresh produce to be harvested, cooled, processed and shipped can vary by hours and is influenced by several external factors beyond the farm. Air temperatures of refrigerated vehicles add to the complexity because they vary significantly, potentially causing the food to go bad before it reaches the store.

The diagram below shows the telematics solution in cold chain management.

Supply Chain Ads

TMS Solutions Mitigate Today’s Supply Chain

When it comes to transportation management, the prime objective remains to be, how to get product from Point A to Point B in the most economical, safe and cost-efficient way possible. Here’s a breakdown of how today’s enhanced transportation management solutions (TMS) can help cold food processors and distributors overcome many of today’s supply chain challenges.

The new Cloud TMS Solution Suite for 3PLs. This solution includes AccellosOne Framework (report and training education videos), transportation management for TL, LTL and brokers, AccellosOne Pulse Dashboard, AccellosOne Inspection (helps logistics providers check loads and product against a set of parameters), SkyTrack Mobile (provides up-to-the-minute statuses of loads directly within the system), AccellosOne Optimize (offers automatic load building, route optimization, delivery scheduling and distribution pattern analysis) and document imaging.


Businesses have a vested interest in improving the quality of their products and their customers’ experiences; these factors drive brand loyalty as well as profitability. By adding newer digital technology to their cold chain to track, manage, and improve their supply chain logistics, companies can ensure that customers receive timely delivery of the right product in fresh and quality condition. Ongoing monitoring and feedback after delivery will give stakeholders deeper insights with their products and transactions and through connected data, see how existing supply chain processes can be improved, and how their business can sustain itself in the future.


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About the Author: Michelle Lee Ean Wei has substantive years of experience in the field of logistics management, and specifically in international relocation of businesses requiring air and sea freight forwarding. She is a member of the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). Michelle completed the Diploma in Logistics and Supply Management (DLSM) course on September 2018 at SIPMM Academy.