It will be an important link in assuring safe, high-quality foods from sources throughout the globe. “Consumers expect strawberries in December, but they don’t understand that we have to source foods from faraway places to be able to offer them year-round,” says Griffith. “The only way we can provide consumers with safe, high-quality food is through a system assuring efficient and effective cold chain management.”
The integrated philosophy brings enhanced value to the industry. “It’s critical to our industry that the Center develop solutions in joint research projects involving industry players and academia who can offer recommendations in advancing the effectiveness of cold chain management,” says John Owen, vice president of logistics for the Midwest/Southeast supply chain services region of Minneapolis-based Supervalu Inc.
Employing a multi-disciplinary role in cold chain management, the Center will bring numerous opportunities to the industry, including:
Ongoing research: Laboratory simulations of things such as how temperature and humidity fluctuations affect product quality and shelf life will provide the industry with actionable information.
“We will develop thresholds and trigger points across the cold chain,” says Pacitti. “This will alert us hours before something goes wrong that there is a problem brewing so we can be proactive and fix the problem. Then we can begin to manage shelf life by integrating quality, traceability and replenishment strategies.”
Next practices will direct methods of how to be more efficient in delivering perishable product from both a quality and economic perspective, Pacitti says.
SCL’s Ratliff notes that industry will be a major participant in helping identify top problems. “Industry members will work with us to help resolve these problems. It is our desire to have regular ongoing projects that will monitor food as it moves through the chain as we examine things like temperature and humidity from end to end.”
Supervalu’s Owen looks to the Center to provide ongoing cold chain research to protect food throughout the chain. “The issue that any one particular company has is really an extension of the problems the industry faces,” he says. “We deal with very sensitive products that need to be handled at critical temperatures and humidity. So anything that improves these processes helps all of us in the industry.”
Suggesting technology solutions: The Center expects to determine how various technologies can be utilized effectively yet affordably, says Jaymie Forrest, director of business development for SCL. “We plan to work with companies who develop these technologies so we can determine how best to use their technologies,” she says.
Griffith looks forward to emerging technology from the Center’s research. “This is very essential to Wawa and we would like to see how this research can translate monitoring the cold chain into product traceability. If we can couple these two aspects—cold chain management and traceability—that will be a big win for many organizations in the food industry. Traceability is something everyone needs to truly understand to be able to manage the cold chain properly.”
These technology solutions should interface easily among participants and should be cost effective and affordable to everyone, she adds.
Another developing area relates to how to manage replenishment strategies while keeping very small inventories. “We are evaluating and understanding technologies that instantly capture data and report that your product sold so much of a percent of inventory on a particular day. This information converts into a production plan for the following day. So what happens at the cash register is critical in developing production and replenishment plans,” notes Pacitti.
Assuring food safety: There is nothing more important to the strength of U.S. Foodservice’s business than food safety, stresses Frank Ferko, director of distribution food safety and quality assurance for U.S. Foodservice headquartered in Rosemont, IL.
“As food safety leaders in the industry, we are acutely aware that the food cold chain really needs a world-class program like this Center,” says Ferko. “The industry needs sophisticated educational and research programs that can provide analytical evidence to drive further development in the cold chain and distribution logistics.”