3 Useful Technologies for Cold Chain Management

Cold chain management refers to the handling, storing, and transport of temperature-sensitive goods and products. The best way to conceptualize this industry is to think of it – as the name suggests – as supply chain management for products that need to stay cold. Temperature control is vital for these products to ensure freshness, maximum shelf-life, and safety for consumption and use. The most common products that benefit from cold chain care include many types of food, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. 

This industry is technical and complicated; accuracy is of the utmost importance. With these imperatives, it is no surprise that technology plays a large role in cold chain management. As technology has advanced over the years, cold chain management has gotten easier and more efficient. Here, we will discuss three technologies that are useful to the industry and have changed the way cold chains are managed. 

Thermal Packaging

In 1938, inventor Fred McKinley Jones and entrepreneur Joe Numero started a company called Thermo King. This was the first business to create air temperature-controlled trucks that could be used to transport perishable goods. Up until that time, perishable cargo was simply packed in cardboard boxes and shipped by truck from one location to another. Now, over eight decades later, not only are the trucks and cooling systems much more sophisticated but so is the packaging of the products. 

Today, the technologically advanced materials used in cold chain management are as incredible as they are varied. Multiple temperature levels are needed in a cold chain, depending on the product being transported.  Thermal packing materials exist to meet each level. Reusable containers made of metal and insulated with all manner of specialized materials are employed, depending on temperature requirements.  Shorter-term use containers made with lightweight rigid cellular plastic instead of cardboard and insulated with molded foam instead of Styrofoam are also used. 

Various gels have been developed to help the products inside the packaging remain cold. These include water-based gels, phase change materials (PCM), and Carboxymethyl cellulose gel. High-tech materials such as Tyvek, a high-density polyethylene synthetic material, is also used to wrap cold chain shipments to help maintain precise temperatures. 

Eco-friendly thermal packaging is being used more often and is highly innovative in design.  Where once this aspect of the industry was dominated by harsh chemicals and non-biodegradable packaging, products that can be safely disposed of in ways that are good for the environment is now the standard. 


When you hear the word blockchain, the first thing that comes to mind is Bitcoin or some other form of cryptocurrency. However, blockchain is simply the technology on which this new form of currency is based.  The technology actually has many more uses than just financial transactions; cold chain management is one of them. Blockchain simply refers to a digital recording of transactions that is secure and private and cannot be executed without the involvement of all parties involved. It then creates a definitive record of the transaction and adds another “block” to the “chain”. 

How does this technology relate to cold chain management? Innovators in this industry see blockchain as a way to ensure the incredible freshness and safety of all types of cold chain products. They see blockchain being used to track and verify produce and other perishable, fresh foods from the farm, through the ripening process, into the cold chain, to the grocer and, ultimately, to your table. Blockchain can ensure that all temperature controls are followed and confirmed and that products are arriving exactly where they need to be, when they need to be there. This same process can be applied to chemicals and pharmaceuticals to ensure they are handled in a way to guarantee safety all the way through the process. 

All types of technology around supply chain management have made this process more trackable and verifiable, to the point that such accountability has come to be a standard operating procedure in the last few decades. Blockchain is seen as the next, and possibly ultimate, step in the process of cold chain management to certify that products handled this way are part of a confirmed and unbroken temperature chain. 

Remote Monitoring

Once you have the materials to help maintain precise temperatures throughout the cold chain journey and you can confirm every step of the journey along the way, the last piece of the cold chain puzzle is ensuring, on a granular level, that temperatures are maintained throughout the journey and at each handling and storage point. The only way to do this is to monitor environmental conditions whenever and wherever possible with remote monitoring capabilities.  

Continuous monitoring of conditions is critical for cold chain operations, making cloud-based remote monitoring systems (such as Dickson’s, for example) that centrally track data loggers highly useful. These data loggers provide cold chain managers – perhaps working from a desk thousands of miles away from the products in transport – with vital information about temperature, humidity, pressure, and other environmental factors that are crucial to maintaining the integrity of the cold chain. 

For condition-sensitive goods such as food or pharmaceuticals, this is an essential task because even if the temperature on the cooling unit reveals a specific temperature, all sorts of conditions can make the temperature different at different places within the container, at different times, or under different circumstances. When cold chain managers can get real-time, accurate feedback about what the actual conditions are, they can not only ensure all guidelines are met, but that they can also deal with issues as they arise, but before they cause problems that may lead to lost product or worse, consumer health and safety issues. This is especially important in times such as we face in 2020 while regularly dealing with backups, delays, and other supply chain issues.


Cold chain management is an industry that was created with new technology on a fateful day in 1938 when McKinley and Numero decided to attach a cooling unit to a truck. Today, technology is playing as big a role as ever in the industry, making it cheaper for businesses as well as safer and fresher for consumers. Packaging technology, blockchain, and remote monitoring are just a few of the ways cold chain management is benefiting from technology in 2020 and beyond.