What is Cold Chain Logistics? – Process, Challenges & Solutions

The cold chain logistic market has seen significant growth in the last decade, especially since the pandemic. This is because of the increasing demand for safely receiving cold chain products such as pharmaceuticals, vaccines, lab samples, food, beverages, dairy products etc., among consumers worldwide. 

In fact, The global cold chain logistics market is projected to grow from $242.39 billion in 2021 to $647.47 billion by 2028, exhibiting a CAGR of 15.1% in the forecast period. 

Clearly, the market for temperature-controlled transportation and storage of perishable products is steadily growing. And now is the golden time to enter the cold chain logistics industry.

This article will serve as your go-to guide if you’re looking to enter cold chain logistics. 

What Is Cold Chain Logistics?

Cold chain logistics is a technology and process that facilitates the safe transportation of temperature-sensitive items via thermal and refrigerated packing methods. The process keeps such products from spoiling, impacting every supply chain stage. 

For example, you need to store products like vaccines in a limited temperature range—from manufacturing to the final moment of vaccination. Or, you want to transpot biological cargo from one place to another quickly and safely.

The process further involves the utilization of temperature-controlled warehouses and distribution centers for storage and cold-insulated transport vehicles for product distribution. 

Significance of Cold Chain Logistics

The cold chain technology is critical in improving global food industry security and supplying better quality nutrition and medical supplies to the remotest regions worldwide.

Effective cold chain shipping directly impact modern enterprises (especially food and beverage industry and pharmaceutical industry) in the following ways- 

  • There’s less likelihood of products getting spoilt, leading to lower inventory replacement costs and higher revenue per shipment.
  • Customers face fewer chances of receiving damaged products, and better product quality leads to enhanced customer satisfaction.
  • Such transportation boosts newer market opportunities, and the range of transportation is greater.
  • Better compliance with regulatory norms (of bodies like Transportation Security Administration) around food and medical products transportation. 

How Does Cold Chain Process Work?

The cold chain maintains a limited temperature range throughout the entire supply chain for temperature-sensitive products to remain safe and of high quality.

The cold chain process is divided into the following five steps – 

  1. Receiving goods from suppliers.  It includes unloading goods from trucks or trains onto pallets or crates. Then, moving them into storage rooms or freezers to deep freeze them as appropriate for their type or condition. 
  2. Storage of goods at an appropriate place with good conditions for long-term storage (a temperature-controlled environment). Depending on shipping needs and logistics agreements between parties involved in a particular shipment, it could be at the supplier’s warehouse or a third-party facility. 
  3. Preparing goods for shipping purposes, including labeling and packaging the goods for final delivery.
  4. Loading the packaged goods for the final delivery in the designated cold chain fleet. The cold chain fleet will involve temperature-controlled trucks for last-mile delivery.
  5. Delivering temperature-sensitive goods to the appropriate recipient.

5 Key Elements To Consider For Cold Chain Distribution

Here are the vital elements for effective cold chain distribution – 

1. Cooling systems

These systems are used to reduce the temperature of the goods. Once the appropriate temperature minimums is achieved, the commodities are taken for further processing.

2. Cold storage

Cold storage becomes extremely important for shipping goods to a distant market. The cooled commodities are exposed to freezing temperatures using substances like liquid nitrogen to reduce their perishable nature. These storage systems ensure that the perishable goods are fresh and safe for usage and consumption.

3. Monitoring systems

The items transported in cold chain distribution are temperature-sensitive. In the case of life-saving products like vaccines and other pharmaceutical items, it becomes vital to ensure the item’s integrity isn’t compromised. Hence having reliable temperature monitoring systems reduces the chance of spoilage.

4. Cold transport

It is another crucial element in the distribution chain that keeps the frozen items intact. It helps move the goods to the destination while maintaining the suitable temperature and the integrity of the commodity.

5. Cold processing and distribution

Cold processing and distribution facilities consolidate loads from multiple suppliers and distribute them to various destinations to meet customer demand. They can also unload from numerous destinations and consolidate them for shipment back to suppliers. These facilities help cold chain logistics companies become more efficient in cold chain management by reducing transportation costs, improving inventory management systems, and increasing productivity.

Major Challenges Of Cold Chain Shipments

Sensitivity to temperature fluctuations makes cold chain shipments challenging to circulate in supply chains. Here are some of the significant challenges of cold chain shipments.

1. Disrupted temperature control

Temperature-sensitive goods like pharmaceuticals, perishable food like frozen meat or seafood, and even everyday items like frozen vegetables or ice cream become unusable and cause safety hazards if exposed to temperatures outside the recommended range. That’s why stable temperature requirements are non-negotiable.

2. Inadequate packaging or damaged products

Receiving damaged shipments can also significantly hurt your profits. Broken products, inadequate packaging, and products exposed to mismanaged temperatures in the trailer can all add to the challenge. To keep it safe from these mishaps, rely on RFID tracking technology so that alerts and rectifications happen in time. 

3. Contamination issues

The cold chain cooling systems are a breeding ground for germs. If freezers and fridges are mismanaged or broken, they can cause microbial growth. To avoid mold, cold chain companies need to monitor their cold storage and freezers constantly.

4. Transport delays and breakdowns

The worst thing that can happen in a cold chain supply chain is a transport breakdown. A transport medium like a truck breakdown means a destroyed load, lost revenue, and wasted time and money. Also, temperature-sensitive goods quickly degrade during such transition delays.

How To Overcome Cold Chain Logistics Challenges? 

Moving on, let’s understand how cold chain logistics companies overcome the mentioned challenges and maintain optimum standards.

1. Prioritize your delivery order

Time and temperature-sensitive products require efficient and on-time deliveries—without any delays. You ensure that by leveraging a multi-stop route planning and optimization software like Upper for all your last-mile deliveries. 

Upper allows you to mark your orders Low, Medium, or Critical in priority so that your drivers can plan deliveries accordingly. A route planning and optimization software will help you get more deliveries done in lesser time. 

This will ensure that the operations of your cold chains are successful and shipments reach customers safely—in proper temperatures while enhancing your productivity and increasing your profits.

2. Choosing the right vehicle and proper transportation equipment

The packaging system is vital in maintaining storage and transit temperature in cold-chain distribution. You can break down packaging systems into two categories: active (actively regulate product’s temperature using blast freezers and temperature-controlled air circulation) and passive (passive regulation via dry ice and gel packs, for example). 

It’s recommended to leverage a hybrid active and passive packaging system. But it largely depends depending on your cold chain process size.

3. Pre-checks

Whether using a truck, or some other form of transportation, it’s essential to ensure that your drivers go through a pre-trip inspection of your products and vehicles.

A few minutes spent going over these items will save you hours of lost product and wasted time, improving cold chain management.

4. Carry out regular inspections of the fleet

Chill chain logistics services must run regular inspections of your cold chain fleet. You must review your transport medium regularly so that it doesn’t suffer an unexpected breakdown.

5. Provide real-time updates to customer

Providing real-time tracking information to your customers regarding ETA and delivery status keeps them in the loop and ensures they are present at the delivery time. Upper helps you send automatic notifications to your customers for the same. It ensures you do not have to try delivering the same package multiple times, which helps maintain quality of your cold chain shipments. 

Improve Your Cold Chain Logistics Efficiency Using Upper 

With Upper’s route planning and optimization software, cold chain providers like you are saving 10 hours per week and getting more deliveries done on time which is excellent for cold chain logistics.

  • With Upper’s carefully chosen transportation routes, you’ll consistently deliver your cold shipments on time and eliminate all delayed deliveries. The route planning and optimization software can integrate with your business systems, like CRM software or warehouse management system, to extract delivery data. Then, it can help you generate the shortest and fastest routes as per specific delivery constraints, such as driving preferences, time windows, and more.
  • As a dispatcher, you can mark your shipments Low, Medium, and High as per priority to keep cold chain items’ safety intact. You can also add multiple stops and details such as service time, priorities, or other notes for your drivers to better manage their jobs. 
  • Upper sends automatic notifications regarding ETA and delivery status to your customers to save your drivers from failed deliveries. This helps them get more deliveries done and ensures the cold chain items safely reach the end customers every time. 

It’d best for you to try out Upper’s functionalities with our 7 days free trial.

Get Best Routes for Cold Chain Logistics Services

Skip the long routes and follow the Upper-made efficient routes for your logistics services. Avoid on-road obstacles with optimized routes and perform deliveries in a timely manner.


Here are some examples-

  • Refrigerated trucks and containers are used to transport goods.
  • Refrigerator units and freezers in warehouses and stores where goods are stored after delivery.
  • Cold rooms at retail outlets where consumers can buy items from refrigerated displays or chilled cabinets.

Cold chain carriers transport temperature-sensitive solutions between sites without breaching the temperature threshold. They are incorporated with fully replaceable cool packs and inner chambers, consistently maintaining the integrity and quality of the products.

Cold chain fulfilment is receiving and processing customer orders, including cold chain logistics management, inventory management, order management, packing, shipping, returns, and post-order tracking.


Efficient last-mile deliveries play a massive role in ensuring that the cold chain is unbroken till the products reach the end customers. It helps provide excellent customer service and saves you costs and time, increasing your revenue. 

Upper’s intelligent route planning and optimization software understands and caters to all cold chain challenges, so your drivers spend less time on the road and get more cold chain deliveries done in less time.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel, author of two defining books on reverse geotagging, is a trusted authority in routing and logistics. His innovative solutions at Upper Route Planner have simplified logistics for businesses across the board. A thought leader in the field, Rakesh's insights are shaping the future of modern-day logistics, making him your go-to expert for all things route optimization. Read more.