23 Dec 2012

Custodians missing in the Cold-chain

Looking ahead into 2013, the expectations from market and service providers are quite obvious to conclude. The Previous year has established that manufacturers and marketers will continue to push to outsource both critical and non-critical areas in logistics to ease working capital pressure on their company.

Yet, are the LSPs prepared and professional enough to match this opportunity? It will require innovative organisational leadership in finance and operations. The typical response though, is to reduce head count and fixed warehouse & transportation assets while maintaining service (exactly what their client company did by outsourcing their own requirement). LSPs need to respond otherwise and not play in tandem. Besides, maintaining service with lowered asset base means opening up to risk, or alternately requires another kind of asset – technology! The smart ones will manage; there will be intelligent contingency plans, back-haul network redesigning, productivity realignments and a move from transactional to strategic management and control.

India’s logistics sector usually has a limited outlook when projecting into the future. This is largely because of the gap in associated infrastructure and matching processes, thereby never allowing them to be truly ahead of the development curve.

Within this sector, what is called the cold-chain has its own unique concerns. In the cold-chain, having complete control on the asset base takes on huge import due to its impact ramification on not just the service integrity but inherently on product’s final value realisation. While the cold-chain has frequently been thought of as a temperature controlled supply chain, it involves total environment control and automatically includes packaging and other accessorial inclusions. Everything else the ordinary supply chain hopes to live upto, is intrinsic to cold-chain! Yet, it is a laggard when it comes to India’s readiness.

There is robust support from the government aimed at developing an integrated approach to cold-chain, vis the previous start-up phase of setting up base infrastructure. Yet opinions suggest that there is more that needs doing to hasten such development. Where and what, are these moot points? In an attempt to exemplify, the development aspects can be categorised into following sectoral components that are typically required for an effective chain:

Static Infrastructure - as initiators of the cold-chain, and for term based storage, and as cross dock distribution hubs.

Mobile Infrastructure - as links for post production and pre-market stages. These are designed to cater to logistical load factors (small volume transit and long haul transits). Additionally cold-chain extends onto the merchandising infrastructure at the retail point of sale.

Standards & Protocols - as procedural processes for safety, designing, handling and for the operations of a wide array of finished products & raw produce, largely food or health related.

Skilled Resources - human resources to implement all above aspects in a cold-chain.

Let us first understand that any integrated Cold-chain is intended to serve as a link between production centres and market.  Cold-chain is not (obviously) solely about preserving and sitting on the goods over extended durations. It is a given, that source and markets exist as do national imperatives in developing effective and sustainable cold-chains.

The success of any cold-chain relies on how efficiently it can serve as a conduit for products that are sensitive to their holding environment (air composition, temperature, microbial load, etc), from the place of origin to their destination with full integrity.

... intelligent cold-chains maintain a chain of custody!
-Pawanexh Kohli

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