For any supply chain to be successful, it relies on partners for support—logistics companies, freight brokers, carriers, warehouses, technology providers, digital freight marketplaces, etc. This is no less true for the cold chain, and it’s even more important for shippers or freight brokers to work with reliable supply chain partners for their cold chain technologies and logistics needs due to the sensitivity of goods in this category.
With the different types and roles of supply chain partners, there is more than one way to approach freight procurement. Shippers must pay careful attention to the methods they use to support their needs and operations. The right partners can help make the process faster and simpler, connect them to more reliable services, and provide access to data to drive their decisions.
In this article, we are looking at the different categories of partners and solutions and their roles, along with a list of some of the top cold chain companies.
What are cold chain logistics and cold chain technology?
The cold chain refers to the supply chain for goods that require refrigeration. This is a more involved process compared to non-refrigerated goods due to the added risk. With any temperature excursions that occur, there is the risk of spoilage, as in the case of food like fresh produce, or other damages.
Cold chain logistics means managing how goods are brought from the manufacturer or producer as Point A to the destination, which may be the customers’ distribution center as Point B, C, or D, passing through multiple pickups and deliveries, warehouses, and carriers along the way. Supply chain partners must provide reliable service for transporting the goods through the chain on time and without issues. Managing the cold chain includes finding the best partners to work with, particularly because there are fewer options available; there are 400,000 refrigerated trailers, or reefers, on the road compared to 1.7 million dry vans.
Another aspect of the cold chain is technology. Technology is a necessary element of any supply chain, but it becomes even more important for the cold chain when managing temperature requirements. Shippers and freight brokers can find solutions to help them with their logistics management, freight procurement, and transportation and shipment visibility.
To handle the cold chain, shippers have several options:
- Using a third-party company (3PL) to manage cold chain logistics and technology
- Using a freight broker to handle cold chain freight procurement and technology
- Handling cold chain logistics in-house and using a third-party technology provider
- Handling cold chain logistics and technology in-house
Similarly, for freight brokers to manage the cold chain for their customers, they have the following options:
- Using a third-party cold chain technology provider
- Handling cold chain technology in-house
Essentially, there is a small spectrum of how to approach cold chain logistics management, ranging from entirely outsourced to entirely in-house.
Outsourcing everything means the 3PL covers every part of the logistics and technology. Shippers using this option must consider the technology the 3PL uses, for example, shipment visibility, as this technology supports the supply chain.
Handling everything in-house means the shipper or freight broker connects with carriers and cold storage providers themselves, often relying on their own network of providers they have worked with in the past. As for technology, most companies do not handle this in-house with a custom-built solution. With the increasing demands on technology and the amount of specialization required to build an effective solution, companies can instead use solutions built by outside technology providers, for example, a digital freight platform to find new partners. This lets shippers and freight brokers handle their logistics in-house with the added support of technological abilities and resources that their cold chains demand.
Our List of Top Cold Chain Providers
Many types of providers are available for cold chain technology and logistics, and it can be difficult to know which companies to consider within the list of options. Here is Hwy Haul’s list of cold chain providers to get you started—logistics, cold storage, and cold chain technology services.
VersaCold Logistics Services
VersaCold is a Canadian 3PL for temperature-sensitive products, operating the largest cold chain logistics network in Canada. Their services specialize in food supply chain logistics and include end-to-end services through warehousing, transportation, integrated logistics, and customized solutions backed by technology like real-time tracking and inventory management. VersaCold has 31 warehouses and distribution centers, plus local, regional, national, and international transportation.
Known as one of the largest providers of international container transportation, OOCL is a global logistics company based in Asia serving international and domestic customers. Their comprehensive services include import and export, warehousing and distribution programs, value-added services, and cold chain solutions. They use Advanced Fresh Air Management Plus (AFAM+) Thermo King system to cool their refrigerated containers.
Providing cold chain logistics for Latin America, Emergent Cold focuses on the global food supply chain with end-to-end services in transportation, storage, and food processing. They operate over 20 cold storage facilities and hundreds of trucks in more than 10 countries. Emergent Cold offers port logistics, bonded warehouse services, cross-docking, retail solutions, and value-added services, including IQF (individual quick freezing), blast freezing, picking, packaging and repackaging, labeling, and import and export documentation.
Burris Logistics provides warehousing, e-commerce or direct-to-consumer fulfillment, and distribution services, complete with a freight brokerage side. They offer custom and scalable solutions for warehousing and distribution and leverage logistics technology, powered by their in-house solution and IT team, to enable system integrations and custom applications for their customers. Burris Logistics focuses on long-term relationships and the partnership aspect of serving their customers and providing logistics services.
Lineage Logistics is a relatively new name in cold storage that has grown quickly due to a number of strategic acquisitions, making them among the top refrigerated storage companies globally. Their focus is on bringing innovation to their services, which include port warehousing, automated warehousing, LTL consolidation, managed transportation, and value-added services like re-distribution and on-site processing. Through technology and their global network, Lineage provides streamlined operations, increased distribution efficiency, and minimized waste within the cold chain.
Americold is a leading provider of temperature-controlled warehouses, serving cold chains for more than 120 years with over 200 cold storage facilities across the U.S. They provide integrated facilities, e-commerce integration and fulfillment, and value-added services like slatting and de-slatting, USDA services, date stamping, bagging and cartonizing, tempering, and blast freezing. Americold also has a top-tier IT infrastructure and provides engineered solutions to meet their customers’ needs.
United States Cold Storage
United States Cold Storage is a leading provider of logistics and cold storage solutions for the frozen and refrigerated food industry. With over 376 million cubic feet of cold storage and 42 facilities nationwide, USCS offers expertise in various aspects of logistics, from planning to execution and reporting. They provide services such as full transportation management, carrier management, integration with purchasing groups, and support for raw materials and production. Their technology includes real-time order tracking and inventory status, as well as integration with their warehouse management system (WMS) and transportation management system (TMS).
Cold Chain Technologies
Cold Chain Technologies is a leader in insulated thermal packaging solutions for a variety of industries, including life science, food service, biomedical, and pharmaceutical, where they had a role in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. With over 50 years of engineering experience in the cold chain, they have a strong focus on reliable and cost-effective performance to protect temperature-sensitive products. Cold Chain Technologies offers pallet and parcel shipping solutions, refrigerants, insulated containers, reusable containers, and monitoring services. They also provide inventory and logistics management as part of their comprehensive suite of services.
Sofrigam designs cold chain shipping and packaging solutions for pharmaceutical, biotechnological, and chemical companies. Like other companies on this list, Sofrigam also had a role in COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Their products include containers, packaging, bags, and pouches that help their customers optimize delivery and reduce the risk of breaks in the cold chain. They offer solutions for pallet shippers and parcel shippers, active refrigerated solutions, reusable containers, cooling bags, and eutectic plates, plus track and trace services.
Tive is a provider of visibility solutions helping shippers and logistics professionals manage their shipments. They focus on transparency and enabling active management through location and condition tracking and monitoring. Serving the food and beverage, retail, and pharmaceutical industries, Tive offers a range of multi-sensor tracker devices that can provide data on temperature, light, and acceleration or motion. One of their standout products is the Tive Tag temperature logger. This thin label that allows for temperature monitoring as an effective and cost-efficient solution for first and last mile visibility. Tive’s accompanying platform enables users to manage their shipments and receive real-time updates and notifications for any issues that may arise.
How to Select the Best Cold Chain Provider for Your Needs
As a shipper or freight broker deciding on a cold chain technology or logistics partner, the goal is to evaluate your needs and options to find the best alignment. Here are seven steps to finding a cold chain provider.
1. Determine your specific cold chain needs.
Make a list of the requirements of your cold chain provider based on your needs. Consider the goods that need transportation and warehousing, the type and volume of these products. What are the temperature requirements, the timeframe they must be delivered within, and any other requirements?
2. Research providers in your area.
Start your search in the region where logistics services are needed. Find a provider that is familiar with managing the cold chain services you need and has specific expertise in handling the type of products you ship, such as produce, processed meat, dairy, or frozen foods.
3. Consider their credentials.
Ask providers about certifications they have to handle your goods, for example, food grade warehousing, to ensure standards for safety and quality are met. Also, note any other recognition like awards they have received for the quality of their services.
4. Investigate their technology and equipment.
To meet the needs for your products, it is important that providers have the necessary technology and equipment. Look into all capabilities they bring to the table and whether they can support the goals of your logistics operations.
5. Ask about customer service.
Consider the level of customer service offered by the providers. Address any detailed needs to be sure your expectations are on the same page with what they provide. This is your chance to fully understand the experience of working with them.
6. Look into references.
Ask providers for references from previous customers to hear about their experience. Choosing supply chain partners is no small decision. By hearing from a company with a history of working with the provider, you can better understand the customer service and capabilities they provide.
7. Get multiple quotes and compare.
Avoid narrowing down your list of options too soon, and instead ask several providers for quotes. Cost of service is always an important factor in this type of decision, and even if there is one top pick, having multiple quotes gives you something to compare.
Access a Quality Carrier Network with a Digital Freight Platform
Shippers and freight brokers have options when selecting their cold chain partners. With a digital freight platform like Hwy Haul, they can get connected to highly rated, reliable carriers in the simplest process possible for booking loads. Users can quickly and easily execute their transportation without intermediary friction, and they automatically benefit from the platform’s leading-edge technology. In the case of Hwy Haul, this provides real-time transportation and shipment visibility, including temperature, humidity, and shift monitoring, and actionable data insights help users improve their shipping performance.
Choose Hwy Haul for your Cold Chain Produce Partner of Choice
Hwy Haul serves the food & beverage industry with industry-leading expertise in fresh produce shipping. Our advanced digital freight platform gives instant quotes for reefer and dry van loads from a network of cold chain carriers so shippers and brokers can save time when searching for reliable service. Hwy Haul helps prevent delays, damages, and food waste, so shipments are delivered fresh every time. To learn more about partnering with Hwy Haul for cold chain logistics and technology, reach out to us today.