Cold chains-supply chains specializing in the packaging, storing, loading and movement of temperature-sensitive products-must perform flawlessly to ensure properly cooled products reach the end user. Cold chains not only face the same difficulties as other supply chains (i.e., port congestion, cost pressures), but additional challenges in heavy infrastructure investments, temperature monitoring and a shortage of qualified and skilled workers.
At the same time, healthier food choices, rising healthcare standards and a growing middle class have all generated increased demand for cold chains and their services. Both shippers (82%) and 3PLs (84%) in this year's study reported they believe demand for cold chain capacity will increase over the next three years. However, roughly only 60% of shippers and 3PLs reported expanding their cold chain capabilities over the last year.
Adoption of technology will continue to be key for sustainable agility and resilience within cold chains. As talent shortages continue to disproportionately impact cold chain operators, automation remains a top priority. Both shippers (67%) and 3PLs (75%) reported expecting to outsource more of their cold chain needs over the next three years. This marks a significant decrease from last year's 3PL response (90%); however, this is likely due to the increased collaboration already taking place between shippers and 3PLs within cold chains.