These days customers around the world don’t want to wait long durations for products, demanding delivery as soon as possible. From the hospitality industry, using airfreight to rapidly acquire products to meet their ever-demanding customer needs, to food distributors, who want the freshest goods, the perishable sector is booming.
As a non-profit organisation that works to bring together all parts of the temperature-sensitive supply chain, the Cool Chain Association (CCA) is at the forefront of the perishable cargo sector. Alongside its work to reduce wastage and improve the sector, the CCA understands the intricacies of the arena, the opportunities and the challenges within it.
With raising awareness at the heart of its mission, the CCA knows the secret to success within the sector: the speed in which companies can move perishable products from production to table around the globe. After all, speed is the most significant benefit of airfreight. This has been clearly seen in the rise of the e-commerce sector and online shopping, driving business to the airfreight industry. With the rise of technology, enabling consumers to procure items from any part of the world in a timely fashion, this space is only likely to grow in importance.
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For the supply chain to be strong, it requires all parts to work together effectively and efficiently. That’s why it’s crucial to have good practices in place for all logistics companies, especially those within the perishables sector. This has, at times, proved tricky with good practices not always understood by all stakeholders in this space, including some producers and manufacturers.
For example, perishable products that require refrigeration must always be under cooling at the optimum product temperature as soon as possible. Any deviations either in temperature control or handling will result in poor quality or loss and wastage, which cannot be allowed.
It’s not just the temperature element of the cool chain that needs to have a unified approach from all stakeholders. With an increased focus on innovation, digitalisation across players in the sector has not occurred at the necessary pace, potentially further inhibiting business opportunities, according to the CCA.
“The main idea as mentioned earlier is to ensure a standardised approach to perishable handling and storage, where best practices are followed and a risk-based methodology is implemented across the supply chain. The use of data will be key to identify the black spots and allow us to analyse and put the required measures in place thereby avoiding food waste,” Miguel Rodriguez Moreno, CCA’s Treasurer said.
“Opportunities include the need for training, education, and data sharing amongst all stakeholders within the industry. The CCA is of the view that training and education of stakeholders within the airfreight sector is undervalued. Each sector within the value chain also works independently with little data sharing to improve efficiencies. Over the years CCA emphasised the theme of collaboration to avoid loss and waste of products. The drive towards technological advancements is becoming a key focus within most industries,” Vijan Chetty, the CCA’s director of the board, added.
Partners protect perishables
Unlike some other sectors, the airfreight industry managed to do relatively well out of the last few years, as flights were almost fully booked with cargo. This was fuelled, in part, by the increase in demand for space on cargo carriers for food and medicine.
In order to meet the increasing demand for fresh products transported by air, many actors in the supply chain have worked to upgrade their infrastructure. Within that, they have ensured there is clear segregation for different products, enhanced visibility within the sector and booster investment in digitalisation, monitoring and data sharing.
Infrastructure and adequately well-trained resources are critical for the success of the cargo industry. Having the infrastructure and resources is one aspect, however proper maintenance and ensuring that equipment is optimally functional is critical. This is the case for everything, from ground handling equipment to transportation and cold storage facilities.
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With the air cargo industry growing, there are a number of markets where there are potential opportunities for stakeholders to prosper. Latin America, Africa and Asia all have been identified by the CCA as having lots of potential to both send and receive perishable goods by air. However, as with the earlier point, for the sector to fully capitalise on these opportunities, adequate governmental support needs to be in place to provide the necessary local infrastructure and training.
Digitalisation is becoming fundamentally important for the cargo industry. “There is a cry by the cargo industry for real time information in an electronic format that can be integrated into systems. Decisions regarding the product can be made with speed if all the information is readily available,” Chetty said.
“The opportunity to reduce the paper intervention by allowing e-declarations and e-clearance can expedite the processes of acceptance and delivery, creating a positive impact in the product transported by reducing the exposure time,” Rodriguez added.
There is a growing focus on sustainability overall in the sector as well, particularly for the CCA, which has identified this as a key issue. “Avoiding food wastage is probably the best way to be sustainable in today’s world,” Rodriguez stated. To ensure more “democratic” access to food supplies for the population in different countries and areas, it’s important to make the best use of the resources. “The reduction in emissions is key to sustainability, but by eliminating the food waste we’re also contributing massively to reduce those same emissions as we maximise cargo operations.”