Moving temperature-sensitive products through the supply chain presents a variety of challenges for food companies—from storage and transportation to selecting carriers and monitoring loads.
Small variances can produce big headaches. A temperature difference of a few degrees during transportation, a slightly longer stay on a loading dock, or a faulty refrigeration unit can turn a large product investment into a hefty liability.
Jeff Battle, vice president of transportation services for OHL, sums up the challenge succinctly. “When it comes to cold storage supply chains, there is no room for error.”
To gain insight into how food companies can attain the necessary best-in-class performance in transporting temperature-sensitive products and materials, we asked several third-party logistics providers for their advice. Here’s what they shared:
For starters, pay careful attention to carrier selection. This isn’t the time to pick the bidder with the lowest price. The best practice, says Brent Witte, president of Witte Bros. Exchange, Inc., involves working with a small, carefully selected pool of carriers that meet stringent criteria, including on-time performance, equipment reliability, and communication.
Selecting carriers must be done with your company’s reputation and performance in mind. The wrong choices can be damaging. “We have experienced companies using many different carriers at the cheapest rates possible only to find that product was not being moved because carriers were late for pickup,” says Witte.
Investing time in carrier selection paid off for a food-manufacturing facility that worked with Witte Bros. The facility moved from using multiple carriers to a dedicated fleet for short movements and an alliance of carriers for long hauls. Implementing a new process with the selected carriers eliminated the line of trucks that once waited for loading and unloading, helped move products swiftly from the loading docks, and virtually eliminated overtime, and the “shipping bottleneck.”
“Working with quality and reliable carriers is crucial,” says Witte. “While utilizing ‘load boards’ to access the vast number of trucking companies in the marketplace may seem easier and cheaper to move product, the practice lends itself to many problems. These carriers tend to not be screened for safety, equipment reliability, and service. Each of these areas plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity of the sensitive product being handled.”
Next, it’s important to measure carrier performance. Once you select the best carriers, you want to monitor their performance while they’re hauling your temperature-sensitive products. A third-party logistics (3PL) firm has the tools to create the necessary report cards.
OHL created a sophisticated carrier management scorecard that measures major competencies, including equipment reliability, on-time pickup, and delivery histories.
Total Quality Logistics (TQL) grades carriers based on on-time performance, communication with the driver and the dispatcher, and other real-time data sent to the company’s systems by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), says Kerry Byrne, TQL’s executive vice president.
Carriers that know they’re being rated will remain in top shape. More importantly, you’re likely to see improved service to your customer.
It’s also important to know when to get expert advice. Getting a 3PL provider’s input on your cold storage supply chain can pay off in important ways. Inviting an expert to the table means having someone who knows how to research carrier selection, carrier capabilities, and performance, says OHL’s Battle. It means you can off-load development of routing guides, negotiating lane pricing, and even executing the day-to-day management of your cold supply chain. It also means that you’re free to focus on doing what you do best.