Keeping cool in a fast-paced market
When a UK-based dessert manufacturer decided to branch out a bit and start selling delicacies in the Australian market, Adam McKenna at Direct Food Express, a freight forwarder based at Manchester Airport, was there. His logistically challenging task: Keep 19 temperature-sensitive pallets cold during a roughly 10,000-mile journey, arranging all the governmentally required health certificates and Customs clearances in the process. Oh yeah — and the clock’s ticking.
“They had put a huge investment in a new market,” McKenna says. “All the goods had to arrive in perfect condition to get straight into the retail units and onto the shelves. We had to deliver, and we did.”
Getting it right in the high-paced, high-risk arena of shipping food around the world is never easy. Hygiene standards and government oversight make handling food a unique supply-chain undertaking, and the technology required to ship and constantly monitor temperature-sensitive products adds another wrinkle into the process. Finally, handling the standard logistics involved in shipping airfreight must be accomplished on a much tighter schedule.
In the UK, all this is challenging, but it can ultimately be accomplished with a bit of hard work. But airfreight executives in emerging regions currently experiencing a surge in cargo activity are sometimes making up solutions to these unique cold-chain requirements as they go. Industry workers in burgeoning markets must ensure that a proper cold-chain infrastructure is developed in order to bring this exciting — and profitable — aspect of the industry to new areas.
A dearth of technology for the food industry is a growing issue in China, says Yacoob Piperdi, senior vice president of cargo services at Singapore-Changi International Airport. Emerging regions, as well as those that experience hot climates, need to pay special attention to growing their cold-chain abilities.
“The lack of cold-chain logistic facilities in Asia is one major market issue. Unlike pharmaceutical products, where the adoption rate for refer-ULDs is fast-gaining, the food sector is still somewhat lagging behind its pharmaceutical counterpart due to cost consideration. But this will change over time,” says Piperdi, who runs Coolport, a cold-chain facility that opened at the airport in June 2010.
Coolport has experienced significant growth in airfreight volume and has expanded trucking and handling services during its first year. Piperdi says this comes from carriers that are starting to target food and pharmaceutical cargo. Officials are looking to increase Coolport’s capabilities even more. By adding the option of quality checks to goods routed through the development, retailers would gain more time.
“With the rising affluence of consumers and their demand for higher quality perishable products, we see a need to provide more Coolport services around the region to ensure that the food items that are transported via the airports are handled fittingly according to the needs of the customers,” Piperdi says.
In addition to keeping the cold chain intact, when officials handled a large shipment of seasonal Australian mangoes,
workers broke the goods up into smaller volumes. The fruit was then airfreighted to Shanhai, Hong Kong, Kulala Lumpur and Tokyo. Australia is a large origination point for Changi’s food shipments; goods — mostly meat and seafood — also come from Europe and Indonesia into Changi before they are broken up and sent out around the region.