There is no such thing as risk-free shipping. Even the sturdiest cargo can experience damage through improper handling during transportation or storage, and that damage can and does increase business expenses. For some businesses operating within the cold chain, temperature is one of the most serious risks — but unfortunately, many business leaders struggle to understand how changes in temperature might impact their goods.
In truth, the full extent of the risk posed by temperature depends entirely on the type of goods in shipment and storage. Some types of goods are much more susceptible to temperature fluctuations than others, so business leaders unfamiliar with the effect of temperature on their unique goods would be wise to conduct research on the topic. Then, investing in comprehensive cold chain technologies can help businesses protect themselves from the high expenses of damaging cold and heat exposure.
In the meantime, business leaders ignorant of the effect of high temperatures on their goods might consider the following examples:
Chemical Changes to Medical Supplies
Temperature can affect goods at the molecular level, initiating chemical changes that result in a change to the effectiveness of the material or product. The best example of this is medications, especially those that are suspended in liquid, like insulin, but in truth, any drug can become less effective in response to extreme temperatures, both heat and cold.
Fortunately, pharmaceuticals are tightly regulated to ensure that end users have access to the treatments they need to manage their health. Most businesses responsible for transporting medications understand rules regarding protection from heat and take pains to ensure that drugs are kept at the exact right temperature through shipping and storage.
Explosion of Dangerous Goods
Pharmaceuticals are not the only products that can experience chemical changes as a result of heat exposure. Some exceedingly dangerous goods, especially those designed to explode, might detonate prematurely if their volatile components reach a certain temperature threshold. If even one explosive discharges as a result of extreme heat, it could produce a cascade effect that results in the ignition of other explosive items in the shipping container, resulting in an outrageously dangerous event that puts much more at risk than a loss of freight. Fortunately, like medical supplies, many dangerous goods are highly regulated and likely to be packaged such that explosions due to high heat should never occur.
Partial or Full Decomposition of Perishable Produce
Refrigerators were a revolution for a reason. A clean, dry and cool environment is a safe place to extend the life of produce, as fresh produce like fruits and vegetables ripen more rapidly and begin to decompose when exposed to warmer temperatures. Thus, it is especially important for shippers of produce to keep their freight insulated against heat for the entire duration of transit — or else produce will begin that decomposition even earlier. Almost all produce shipments rely on refrigerated shipping containers to maintain the exact right temperature for keeping fruits and vegetables fresh.
Expansion of Liquids or Gasses to Damage Packaging
At the molecular level, heat causes expansion — and expansion can cause problems in shipping. Already less dense than solids, liquids and gasses tend to be more susceptible to the expanding effect of warm temperatures, so liquid and gas products require more careful treatment in shipping, where they might be exposed to excessive heat. Even if the liquids or gasses themselves are not damaged by the change in temperature, the expansion they experience could damage the packaging in ways that make the products unusable. For example, carbonated beverages packaged in aluminum cans may burst at high temperatures, leaking out of their containers and ruining surrounding freight, as well.
Distortion, Discoloration or Cracking of Materials
Some materials react to heat through temporary or permanent changes to their appearance. Softer materials may distort in shape; harder materials may develop cracks; and all materials may shift in hue, developing unsightly pigmentation. Because appearance contributes to the value of any product, business leaders should strive to protect against excessive heat in any way they can, which includes using all manner of cold chain technologies to track temperatures throughout the shipping and storage processes.
Excessive heat should be a concern for shippers and carriers alike. By working together to identify the risks involved in shipping, business leaders can keep their goods safe from threats like heat and reap the rewards in terms of profit.