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The Cold Hard Truth: Logistics Challenges of Cold Storage Equipment

By Phil Burnette
Vice President, National Account Sales
Technical Transportation, Inc

When it comes to cold storage equipment, shipping damage is a hot-button topic among manufacturers and transportation carriers alike. Thanks to the delicate nature of the refrigerators and freezers required by today’s life-sciences market, any damage experienced during shipment and setup can mean a loss of revenue—a cold reality for all involved.

Examples of damage to cold storage equipment

That said, a successful logistics program for these products is achievable, but you must first overcome some large challenges, namely providing safe, damage-free transportation and delivery.

Before we delve into the characteristics of a successful program, let’s first take a look at some of the factors that influence cold storage product damage.

Cold Storage Products Are Sensitive Creatures

Since the 1980s, polyurethanes have become the most prominent insulation method used for refrigerators and freezers. Polyurethane insulation is injected between the steel or aluminum outer casing and the inner plastic liner of a unit. It begins as a liquid when injected, and within a very short period of time, it expands to fill the space between the inner and outer liners.

Polyurethanes are great insulation options, because they are energy efficient, strong, durable, cost effective and lightweight.

However with this type of insulation, each unit becomes, in effect, a single piece, and dents to the products are almost always unrepairable. For example, if a unit sustains a dent on the right side, there is most likely no way to replace that single right panel.

In addition, some manufacturers feel that a dent to the outer shell condenses the polyurethane foam, which can create hot spots or inconsistent insulation that may compromise the internal temperature consistency. The manufacturer may then deem the unit unsellable. Scratches also present problems. While some can be touched up and repainted, most are unrepairable, especially on brushed aluminum models.

So with today’s cold storage products, you have highly engineered, high-value, sensitive pieces of equipment that when damaged have a high probability of being a total loss. That’s why safe transportation and delivery are vital.

The Role of Packaging

Most of the time, a damaged unit results in an unnecessary cost to the shipper and the carrier. But 100% of the time it results in an unhappy end-customer and perhaps a cancelled order.

The best line of defense here is effective packaging. Even in a scenario where the savings from eliminating total losses is spent on increased packaging costs, it is a win for everyone involved to have satisfied both your internal customer (your company’s finance and sales teams) as well as your external customers with an undamaged unit the first time.

So how to you achieve effective packaging?

  1. Work closely with a third-party packaging design and engineering partner. An external partner will give you an honest assessment of your current packaging and a solid recommendation on any redesign that is needed. An internal packaging person can be influenced or pressured by company agendas and may result in flawed recommendations.
  2. Packaging must be model-specific. Attempting to save money by creating a one-size-fits-all solution usually fits no one and will not solve the damage issue.
  3. Test, test, and re-test. Work in concert with your packaging design, transportation carrier, and an International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) certified packaging testing company. You can test your product and packaging for numerous factors including drop, impact, compression, vibration, and more.

A Helping Hand

In the end, your winning formula is a competent transportation and technical service provider who has the tools and experience necessary to provide smooth white-glove delivery, unpack, placement, and setup of today’s complex and delicate cold storage units.

The combination of a well-designed product, a good protective packaging design, and a great logistics & service partner can eliminate the issue of product damage and ensure industry players aren’t left out in the cold in today’s competitive market.

Have questions?

If you’re having trouble transporting your cold storage equipment, or if you just have questions, feel free to contact us today for more information.

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