Although experts like Kalschnig have been impressed with the increasing regional awareness of cold chain logistics, it clear that more needs to be done to enforce consistent quality in the Middle East. “Several countries here have done a lot of work in establishing regulation of cold chain management and execution, yet there is still a long way to go to achieve world class standards,” agrees André Verdier, CEO of Dubai-based consultancy Innova Supply Chain. “Establishing regulations is only the first step in the drive towards safe cold chain practices - maintaining consistent quality standards relies upon the enforcement, auditing and inspection of the said practices by government officials and approved institutions.” Keeping up this pressure for participants along the cold chain is imperative, as Verdier finds it’s often the ‘last leg’ of the cold chain that requires the greatest attention.
It is for this reason that Kevin Hill, sales manager for the Middle East at Agility, says the company tries to control the entire supply chain process for its regional clients. Agility’s cold chain solutions have an end-to-end capability so it manages the supply chain and value across the entire process. We move reefer containers and chilled containers into the region through Jebel Ali Port so it’s an integrated part of the rest of our operations, then it’s a case of customs clearance and documentation,” says Hill. “We deal a lot with the municipality in terms of making sure the products are approved and the process of importing food goods is necessarily highly regulated and there is a detailed process that needs to be followed so we handle that for our clients.”
Ramadan is the most challenging month for cold chain operations. “Ramadan is a significant challenge for us because you have a sudden spike in demand and reduced working hours for staff,” he says. “So we have to think carefully about planning and meeting that peak in demand. We manage that by working very closely with clients so that we know exactly what is needed and when and we also move our people away from some of the quieter operations and into the cold chain. It’s a question of working with clients to understand their priorities and knowing their inbound and outbound requirements, as well as what they need this year that’s different to last year. We have weekly meetings to ensure that these issues are sorted out ahead of time.”
“Most of cold chain product goes through the DIP warehouse, where we have frozen chambers for Al Aslami, Carrefour, Armada who do Hershes chocolate,” he adds. “On the inbound all the expiry dates are recorded by our WMS system as well as the country of origin. This enables us to help our clients with their inventory, so that the first to expire goods are the first out.”