Cargo Handling Tips for Perishable Goods

Wed Mar 10 2021 18:30:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

What’s on the menu for lunch? Aromatic steamed rice from India, savory guacamole made from Mexican Avocados and delicious smoked salmon from Netherlands. What’s the common factor in all these dishes? The basic ingredients are shipped from different corners of the world.

Modern commercial transportation has made enormous strides in handling goods that are labelled as ‘perishable’. These types of freights require special attention and here are few pointers on how to get it right.

What is considered a Perishable Good?

For a good to be considered perishable, it should be prone to deterioration due to environmental factors over time. Perishable goods typically have a lower shelf life and require refrigeration. The most common perishable goods include fruits, vegetables, dairy, seafood, meat flowers, chemicals and pharmaceutical products.

Tips to Handle Perishable Goods

1) Use Appropriate Cooling Agent

As most perishable goods require refrigeration or some form of cooling, the type of cooling agent plays a major part in maintaining the quality of such cargo. The most germane agent has to be chosen on the basis of parameters such as length of voyage and the type of goods transported. For instance, long hauls transporting perishable goods should go for dry ice as it is non-toxic and keeps the food frozen for the entirety of the journey. However, it cannot be used when transporting certain chemicals as unwelcome reactions could occur. Moreover, the duration of transit matters as the economics of transport need to be considered as well. For shorter distances and for goods that do not require a high degree of cooling, dry ice is not a reasonable contender. In such cases gel packs are the better choice. Thus, selecting the ideal cooling agent for the situation can significantly ease handling of perishables.

2) Proper Packing

Packing or packaging is pivotal when transporting perishable goods and requires a lot of attention. Ensure that no space is left between the items and the cooling materials. This will promote more efficient cooling and retain the effect for longer. Double check whenever possible to see if all items fit snugly to eliminate unnecessary space. Bubble wrap, padding and fillers can be used to cover up any spaces that might appear. The right box or carton also plays a major role when it comes to perishables. Boxes that leak or are prone to water damage should never be used as moisture can exacerbate spoilage. A good practice is to line the corners of the storage container with plastic and reinforce the box with a water absorbent mat. Always go for corrugated double-layered boxes and use ample amounts of packaging tape wherever required. Whenever possible, utilize customized boxes as it eliminates all the problems mentioned above.

3) Inventory Management & Warehousing

Maintaining inventory is critical for all types of goods. However, it is doubly vital to studiosly maintain inventory of perishable goods. Carefully logging the exact time when the goods come in and keeping track of its deterioration rate and expiration periods are essential practices to follow when handling such products. Inventory managers should be aware of the properties of the perishables under their supervision and should prioritize the transport likewise. Warehouses should be equipped to handle short term storage of perishable goods and have the necessary infrastructure to ensure smooth movement. The key here is to allow for constant flow of goods in order to avoid contamination or spoilage.

4) Multi-layered Insulation

Once perishable goods are packed into boxes and loaded into containers, there is nothing much that can be done for the next leg of its voyage. During this phase, the insulation is the work-horse that prevents the breakdown of the perishable items that are being forwarded. Put on a layer of insulation initially on the products-cooling agent bunch. Top that up with a second layer of insulation around the box. Insulation foams and thermocol are the go to materials for complete insulation.

5) Using Correct Transportation Methods

The key to handling perishable goods is planning. This includes scheduling the timelines and deciding on the modes of delivery. Standard transportation trucks and vessels just won’t cut it for perishable goods. Specialized models with the appropriate configurations need to be employed. While on road, vehicles with temperature controlling systems need to be employed. Isothermal trucks are usually the best options to maintain optimum temperatures. For overseas transport via sea, a reefer vessel would be ideal for accommodating perishable products. Reefer ships have in-built refrigeration units that provide the required environment for perishable goods.

Perishable goods require dexterous handling to ensure smooth passage. Follow the five tips above to guarantee delivery without deterioration.