Addressing the Sweaty Elephant in the Room

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September 24, 2013

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While the sweltering heat of an African afternoon may have become commonplace and bearable to the continent’s inhabitants, we in the logistics industry are far more likely to fret over a thermostat set one degree below the recommended level.

While people are aware that perishable or sensitive goods are often transported as needed, few people outside the industry stop to consider the mechanics of the situation: there is a need to control the micro climate in which such goods travel, known as “climate controlled” travel. It is therefore necessary to address the elephant in the room and discuss the uses of this particular facet of shipping.

The most obvious and financially lucrative use of climate controlled shipping would be for export of perishable goods. In the case of Kenya, what immediately comes to mind are flower exports (Homegrown): it is vital to arrange for climate controlled shipping conditions to ensure they reach their final destinations fresh and appealing for their intended market.

Financial gain also plays a part in the small scale: it is necessary to have special, refrigerated shipping available to keep perishable goods for local wholesale or retail in optimum condition. An example of this would be where meat needs to be transported from the slaughter house to the final point of sale, such as a supermarket. Other perishables such as dairy goods also require similar treatment.

Climate controlled shipping is also applicable for health reasons. The medical community would be lost without a reliable way to transfer sensitive medication such as vaccines that require very specific temperatures to be of any help to their recipients. The same is also true of conditions for donor organs or donated blood, which would quickly go to waste due to exposure to improper conditions.

Also reliant on painstakingly detailed climate-controlled shipping is the art world. Rare old books, classic paintings and well aged wines are highly susceptible to damage from incorrect temperature, humidity, mechanical shock and other challenges that arise during shipping.

With this in mind, many of our industry players have worked to ensure the highest possible standards that guarantee precious cargo is safe from elemental corruption, especially in the extreme African climes. The process of climate-controlled shipping begins with warehousing, where goods are meticulously stored in optimum conditions while awaiting transport.

Sensitive articles must be carefully packed for the journey: shipping frames or crates that help mimic proper storage conditions are employed as an additional safety measure before the goods are then surrendered for shipping.

Transporting such fragile objects can be accomplished through portable climate-controlled “boxes” or containers. Recent technology allows these to be self-powered and self-regulating, which is necessary if they are to be mobile. The greatest advantage of climate controlled containers is that they allow goods to be ferried along whichever mode of transport is most convenient, be it air, sea or land, as they are not dependent on any specific type of vessel.

More limiting, but equally important is climate-controlled vessels. These are vehicles built with specifications that allow for the necessary mastery over temperature. Vehicles such as refrigerated vans, trucks or trailers fall in this category and can be trusted to deliver delicate goods as needed, though with less mobility than independent containers.

Once cargo reaches its destination, any logistics firm worth their salt will have prepared for proper delivery of goods. This entails ensuring that precious packages are not exposed to the damaging effects of extreme temperature, sunlight or any other possible contaminant during the process of handing over.

With climate control being such an integral part of the supply chain equation, it’s hard to believe that it does not feature more prominently in transportation conversation, perhaps due to a lack of knowledge. Hopefully, by laying down the basics of the process, we have helped address the sweaty elephant in the room, desperate for climate-controlled conditions. Do stay cool, won’t you?



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