Finally, the food logistics industry will have a research and resource center to utilize for questions about and solutions to every aspect of managing and monitoring the food cold supply chain. The Georgia Tech Integrated Food Chain Center—formed by The Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute (SCL) at The Georgia Institute of Technology and by Sterling Solutions LLC—will be housed within SCL in Atlanta.
The Center—integrating academia with seasoned industry experts—will launch this May and will operate as an international center for applicable knowledge in the fragile cold chain.
While a few other organizations operate in the cold chain, they are composed primarily of trade associations. This is the first time the industry will ever have a research center that will integrate all cold supply chain and logistics participants, including distributors, retailers, foodservice companies, distributors and transportation providers.
“There is currently no one entity that studies, researches and applies economically feasible industry-wide cold chain solutions,” notes Nick Pacitti, partner with Sterling Solutions LLC, Memphis. “So this will be a center of knowledge providing research into specific areas affecting these respective participants. It will serve as a center of knowledge providing research into tracing and protecting perishable foods as they move through the cold supply chain.”
The Center will focus on a number of areas of concern to the industry, including product safety, product quality, environmental impact and economic benefit. Funding will come from industry members and sponsors and through government grants.
The goal of bringing together all of these various players is to establish an overarching understanding among cold chain participants of their respective responsibilities for maintaining the cold chain and how those responsibilities affect cold chain management of the other participants downstream in the cold chain.
“One of the reasons for the Center is to mitigate the risks we saw in dollars spent on product for development, manufacturing, consumer testing and regulatory compliance,” explains Pacitti. “These costs are at risk throughout the cold chain from supply to delivery because if the cold chain is not managed right, brand integrity, customer confidence and market share are at risk.”
Jane Griffith, senior director of quality assurance and food safety for Wawa Inc., based in Wawa, PA., notes that she and Pacitti have been pursuing getting this concept established for a number of years, talking with colleges and universities about the feasibility of such a center.
“But many of them didn’t have the ability to really move the needle and help us bring all these central partners together,” says Griffith. “When we approached Georgia Tech, they immediately saw the value to the industry and to the entire food supply chain. And since they have a reputation of expertise and strength in the supply chain anyway, it was a natural fit for them to do this.”
Bill Hudson, president and CEO of Alexandria, VA-based Global Cold Chain Alliance, weighs in on the value to the industry of the Center. “As the Center will integrate the examination of the cold supply chain and the operation of the chain, we see this as a tremendous opportunity in bringing together the industry, academia, government and food science in order to study the challenges in food logistics.”
Hudson adds that his organization also strives for integrity of refrigerated foods throughout the distribution chain. “We look forward to aligning our programs and our members’ needs with the Center’s mission.”