Containerization, Cold Chains and the Flexibility of Supply Chains
Globalization and more reliable cold chains are starting to have
significant impacts on commodity chains, by expanding the options available
for each sequence of the supply chain, which results in an increase
in the quality of products available on markets as well as lower costs.
The above example is a good illustration how commodity chains can become
more flexible with cold chains. Conventionally, langoustines were fished
off the coast of Scotland, brought to a nearby processing plant where
they were mechanically pealed. After a maturation period of about three
weeks in cold storage, the langoustine meat was then processed (e.g.
cooked and breaded), packed and then distributed to the main United
By using the cold chain technology at the global level, it becomes
possible to relocate part of the process to a lower cost location and
at the same time improve the quality of the product. In the above case,
after freezing the langoustines are placed in ISO reefers and shipped
by containership to Thailand, which takes about three weeks. Such a
change in the supply chain appears to be counterintuitive from a
distance perspective as it increases to amount of energy used.
However, a few nuances must be brought forward. Since the
containerized trade between Europe and Asia is very imbalanced, the
cold chain benefits of a significant discount on the UK - Thailand
in the range of 50%. The cargo is carried on containerships,
offering economies of scale and the most environmentally efficient
mode per unit carried. In Thailand, the Langoustines are manually peeled,
which improves the quality of the product. Then, the peeled langoustines
are shipped back to the UK. Since the maturation process takes about
three weeks, the reefer acts at the same time as a transport unit as
well as a maturation warehouse, conferring additional economies since
no more warehousing space is required for that process (reduced land
take). The final stages,
processing and packaging are taking place in the UK market.