With Memorial Day behind us, warmer temperatures and sunnier days are on the way. With them comes some unique impacts from summer shipping.
Though shipping patterns this year will be different than usual, the country is starting to open back up. Regardless of social distancing precautions, there will be demand for summertime staples — many of which require refrigeration.
To get more insight on potential pitfalls, we asked Kevin Lynch, Director of Sales at QProducts & Services, to share some potential pitfalls. Kevin has over 17 years of experience in temperature-controlled shipping. Here is his advice.
Balancing Cost and Product Integrity
As every shipper knows, ensuring that product arrives to the customer in good condition is extremely important, but adequately protecting cargo comes at a cost.
Every summer, shippers across the country grapple with a few questions:
- How vulnerable is my product to the heat of the summer?
- How much will it cost for me to implement additional temperature-control best practices?
- Does that cost outweigh the risk of damaged and rejected product?
The answers will vary based on a slew of factors—there is no single solution. As you analyze your own supply chain, it’s important to consider the full spectrum of consequences that occur as a result of damaged product.
Using these as a guide, you can do a cost/benefit analysis to build a temperature-controlled solution that’s right for your business.
Three Common Summer Shipping Mistakes
Once you’ve set your temperature-control strategy, it’s important to keep your eye on a few potential pitfalls as you implement your plans. Here are three common mistakes I have seen shippers make.
Mistake #1: Waiting until you need temperature-controlled capacity to secure it.
There are a lot of products that can usually ship in a dry van, but require temperature-control on a seasonal basis (i.e. organic snacks, pharmaceuticals, chocolate, beverages, etc.).
In the summer, this typically means converting to refrigerated trailers.
The great debate for shippers is when to make the conversion. Refrigerated capacity will almost always cost more than standard dry shipping — this is especially true in the summer when reefer demand spikes with produce and other seasonal summer products.
Yet damaged and refused product can be very costly. How can you keep your seasonal budget in-line while balancing cargo security?
Best Practice: Preparation
If you ship cargo that can’t withstand a 90°F heatwave, you need to plan well before the thermometer rises. By working ahead, you can mitigate cost inflation and avoid service disruptions.
Proactively reach out to your refrigerated carriers and 3PLs with forecasted needs at the beginning of the season to establish rates and service requirements. Analyze your supply chain and look for gaps in the “cold chain” where your product is vulnerable.
Optimize your routing guide and prioritize reliable carriers. A higher rate with higher tender acceptance is still cheaper than a carrier that sends you into the spot market for a last-minute option.
Explore refrigerated alternatives, such as insulated thermal blankets. Conducting a cost-benefit analysis can open up new capacity options during the summer months.
Monitor the forecast in your shipping lanes and confirm capacity once when you see a heatwave on the horizon.
Mistake #2: Assuming your LTL carrier has temperature-controlled cross docking facility.
If you ship LTL, your shipment will typically make several stops within the carrier’s terminal network throughout transit.
As your product is unloaded and reloaded, it may spend several hours on the dock, waiting to be transferred.
This is manageable most of the year, but during heatwaves ambient temperature inside terminals can reach nearly 90 degrees, potentially putting your goods at risk.
Best Practice: Ask your LTL providers about the temperature conditions at their terminals.
Collaborate with them to put a plan in place to protect your shipments from temperature excursions. Verify routing patterns, temperature requirements and product sensitivity.
If shipping refrigerated LTL, consider insulated thermal blankets to protect product temperature while on the dock.
Mistake #3: Assuming the refrigeration unit will always be running.
Refrigerated trailers and containers are very reliable, but they aren’t completely infallible. Operator error, equipment failure and long delays are all potential risks to product integrity.
- Operator Error:
Though the vast majority of carriers comply to shipper requirements, some drivers may occasionally turn off the refrigeration unit to conserve fuel, then turn it back on before making delivery.
- Equipment Failure:
This is less of a concern with over-the-road shipping, as the driver has close oversight of the load and can quickly refuel or address any malfunctioning equipment. However, when shipping refrigerated ocean or intermodal, there is far less individual attention to each container, and if the unit runs out of fuel or stops working, there is much less of a chance that the carrier will resolve the issue.
Regardless of mode or lane, delays in transit are bound to happen—especially with cross-border and/or multimodal shipping.
The longer the product is held up, the higher the chance that the unit will run out of fuel. The hotter the temperature, the more fuel the unit consumes and the faster the product will heat up once it runs out.
Best Practices: You can take simple, proactive steps to avoid losing a load.
- Clearly define temperature requirements on your Bill of Lading (BOL).
- Work with trusted providers who will follow your requirements exactly.
- Proactively communicate product requirements with all providers involved.
- Request an electronic log of trailer temperatures for the entire trip.
- Include your own temperature recording device in the payload.
More Options, Less Risk
Though managing temperature-sensitive freight is never easy, there have never been more resources available to shippers: instant spot quoting, sophisticated analytical tools, and lower-cost cargo protection equipment all empower supply chain professionals to increase shipment visibility and reduce costs.
Work with providers that take cargo integrity seriously. Talk to your supply chain providers about what solutions and services they can offer to help maintain the integrity of your products from origin to destination.
By leveraging all available solutions, you can manage risk and cost simultaneously.
About Kevin Lynch: As Director of Sales at QProducts, Kevin Lynch leverages over 18 years of supply chain experience to design and implement temperature protection and cargo security solutions for shippers in all industries.
About QProducts & Services: QProducts & Services is a manufacturer of passive temperature protection and cargo security solutions for the global supply chain. For over 25 years, they have developed innovative, cost-saving solutions for transporting temperature sensitive commodities.
QProducts & Services has expanded their product line to include cargo security solutions and wireless temperature monitoring technologies. Manufactured just outside of Chicago, IL, their patented products are noted for durability, performance and reliability in protecting the integrity of shippers' cargo throughout the supply chain.