Innovations in the offer of air transport logistics for the food industry

5 February 2018

At present, Poland holds the rank of European Union’s 8th greatest exporter of agricultural and food products (risen from the 11th place it held in 2004). According to our Central Statistical Office (GUS), in all of 2016 Poland exported 24.2 billion Euros worth of food products, topping the worth of imported food products by 7.1 billion Euro. The share of agricultural products in Polish export has been increasing for years, which proves Poland’s comparative advantage as a producer of food.
In addition, Poland has achieved many successes in this field on the international stage. Recent years have seen it become one of the leading global exporters of poultry, mushrooms, apples and blueberries. Export of beef and dairy products is also experiencing a dynamic development. Exporters of fresh, processed and frozen goods mostly chose air transport, since it is fast and allows them to deliver their products to distant places, such as Japan, South Africa, South Korea, and China. More and more direct flights are arranged between Poland and cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and Singapore (scheduled for May 2018), contributing to Poland’s competitiveness and speed advantage over other European countries. There are two kinds of air transport services in terms of temperature: active and passive.
The active service employs more specialised equipment, such as active containers. They maintain the same temperature throughout the whole flight. This solution, however, is expensive, and may not be viable for certain products. There are several types of temperature controlled containers - they can be cooling only, but also heat and cooling. Differences include the type of coolant, power source, and temperature range maintained during transport.
The passive service constitutes an alternative solution, allowing for cost reduction, but increasing the risk of temperature deviation, which may be harmful to the transported goods, especially the temperature-sensitive ones. It mostly relies on temperature control services provided by the airlines, as well as warehouses located in appropriate temperature zones within airports, excluding handling procedures such as loading and unloading of the cargo. This is when temperature deviations are most common, especially in countries where extreme temperatures may occur. In order to reduce the risk, one may apply thermal packaging, such as thermal blankets or refrigerated packaging with gel packs, which will protect the goods from temperature deviations outside the temperature zone for several hours.

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Temperature chain linked to safety chain
Every piece of cargo to be shipped by air is inspected before loading. This is done for safety reasons. Safety inspections are lengthy, and take place outside the temperature zone, exposing the products to damages resulting from temperature deviations. This problem may be remedied if the sender becomes a Known Consignor. A company that practices strict, precisely defined safety regulations, may be awarded the Known Consignor status and have its goods excused from the airports’ safety control. In this scenario, the goods are moved to appropriate temperature zones right after having been delivered to the airport, and stay there until loading. Several companies, whose products require temperature-controlled transportation, have successfully adapted this procedure.

Temperature monitoring
      Temperature monitoring is an extremely important part of temperature controlled transport, as are temperature reports generated to describe temperature throughout the entire journey. Temperature and humidity may even be monitored online, in which case the measuring device will also indicate the cargo’s geographical location. Once the products have reached their destination, a temperature report will be sent automatically by e-mail. Devices are the size of credit cards, come with certificates, and are approved of by the airlines. This solution is inventive, as it involves innovative means of control (measuring devices are activated with a smartphone, through an Android application), and its costs are low. Companies can thus be sure their products will be delivered as was ordered.
     
Marcin Kowalczyk, Business Development Manager Air Freight for Uni-logistics Sp. z o.o. in Gdynia

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