Prime Fresh Handling’s New Vacuum Cooler at BOG is BIG News

From farm to cargo-port to shelf, there are myriad steps along the way that must be taken to maintain the quality of delicate perishables. Topping the list is the steady application of cool air.

To eliminate the chances of a moldy old blueberry or warm and bruised flowers ever making it to market, shippers and handlers need the right stuff, like tight procedures, experienced staff, and top-of-the-line equipment.

Prime Fresh Handling’s got all that—and now even more in its ongoing fight against temperature abuse: a new ColdMax vacuum cooler at its BOG facility.

We recently spoke with Jose Luis Vargas, our Commercial Manager on the front lines in Colombia, to learn about this unique new feature that is making his customers happy, and the consumers they serve even happier—and for longer. Turns out, application of a vacuum cooler to the existing standard pre-cooling process can extend the vase life of flowers by up to 1.5 extra days.

So, let’s get to the root of the story:

Q: The new vacuum coolers at BOG are said to be a “rare find.” Why’s that? This technology has been around for years.

A: Yes, you’re right. Vacuum pre-cooling for floral crops actually dates back to the 1950s, but for years, few such systems were being used commercially. In recent years however, they’ve become more prevalent at centralized cargo terminals, such as our PFH facility at BOG.

What makes this system a “rare find” is that due to high capital cost of the equipment, few other local logistics providers can offset such an investment. It also adds a little extra time to the overall staging process, but the payoff for consumers is a longer vase life. Because of the high throughput of boxes at BOG, it was considered it an essential next step in PFH’s evolution as Colombia’s premier shipper and handler of fresh-cut flowers. Now it’s a real feather in our cap.

Q: So it is used only for shipment of fresh-cut flowers?

A: This system is being used primarily in the handling of our number one export at BOG—fresh-cut flowers. But it also can be used in staging sensitive perishables like fruit, vegetables, and herbs that we expertly handle for our customers.

Q: Why is this process so important?

A: Rapid cooling is an essential step in maintaining the cold supply. The way to ensure the quality and attractiveness of flowers is to cool them as soon as possible after harvest and then steadily maintain optimum temperatures throughout the entire transit and distribution process.

Once packed, flowers are difficult to cool. Their high rate of respiration and the high temperatures of most greenhouses and packing areas result in heat build-up in packed flower containers, unless measures are taken to ensure temperature reduction. Forced-air cooling of boxes with end holes or closable flaps is the most common and effective method for pre-cooling cut flowers. But the vacuum cooling process is that extra special step that few other handlers can offer.

Q: How big is the unit at BOG, and what are the rates for usage?

A: Manufactured by one of the biggest names in vacuum coolers, cold rooms, and ice machines, our advanced ColdMax KMS-4000 system has a processing capacity of 4000 kg/cycle, and is about the size of a two main deck jet pallets. Service rates take into consideration weight, volume, packaging, and other factors, but generally, chargeable weight or gross weight is USD 0.06/kg.

Q: How does vacuum cooling work?

A: Vacuum cooling is based on the fact that water boils at lower temperatures at lower pressures. At about 1/10th atmosphere pressure, water boils at 0°C (32°F). When flowers or plants are placed at these low pressures, the water in their cells “boils,” removing heat. It usually takes only 18-30 minutes to reduce the temperature of multi-leaf products from 35 °C to 2 °C.

Q: Are there other benefits to vacuum cooling?

A: It should be noted that this system also serves as a useful “backstop” for when flowers arrive that either were not properly cooled by growers or have been delayed for any reason along the way to the airport.

They say the weakest link in the flower post-harvest chain can be found at the airport—where the chance of delays is greatest—causing flowers to quickly loose their edge due to temperature mismanagement. But that’s not PFH—we’re your strongest link in the perishables business.

About Prime Fresh Handling

PFH’s global network of offices and bonded and refrigerated storage facilities provides timely and easy access to all of the world’s major markets. With innovative technology, operational proficiency, and friendly customer relations, PFH expertly manages all aspects of the logistics and handling of temperature-sensitive products, from fresh fish, produce, and cut flowers to pharmaceutical products and vaccines.

PFH Bogotá is located at Av El Dorado N. 111-51, TC1 Officina 220, Colombia. Call 57-15185555 or in the U.S. at 1-3055922044. Also visit www.prime-fresh.com.

Growing Presence of E-Commerce Making Holidays Even Happier This Year

The explosive growth of e-commerce accelerated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is offering a more than a twinkle of hope for those of us in global supply chain management— especially as we go into the holiday season.

As consumers have grown accustomed to a digital-first shopping mindset, they plan to do more online shopping this holiday season than ever before, and that’s great news for the logistics industry.

To meet this challenge, producers of consumer goods worldwide and their requisite distribution providers are keeping pace, learning to adapt, and growing stronger. This silver lining to the pandemic is also being seen in the global shipment and handling of perishable foods and fresh flowers, Prime Group’s core business.

As we march into the holiday season, new data from PriceSpider on consumer purchasing behavior shows a 113% increase in year-over-year e-commerce sales through the first three quarters of 2020.

Factoring in the recent spikes in COVID-19 infections in tandem with flu season this winter, there will likely be even more stay-at-home orders as consumers continue to avoid brick-and-mortar retail entirely. So, happy holidays, New Year, and beyond…

Frenzy for Food

With grocery e-commerce now ranked among the fastest-growing product categories online, Prime Group companies are committed to providing the highest levels of service for our fresh food customers and forwarders around the world. And it’s not just retail grocery; online sales are also skyrocketing in the food and beverage segment, as they too have successfully adopted alternative methods to meet emerging customer preferences.

In response to the boom, one step we’ve taken is to increase cold storage capacity all across our global network of warehouses and handling facilities. The demand for coolers and freezers was already high prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now we are even better positioned to maintain the cold supply chain for our customers shipping temperature-sensitive fruit, vegetables, cheese, and fish.

We are also continually beefing up our technology and introducing new and more efficient systems by which we track and monitor our customers’ precious cargo to ensure fresh, safe, and on-time delivery worldwide.

Forget Me Not

‘Tis also the season for fresh flowers. Despite the major challenges imposed on this industry since the beginning of the pandemic, fresh-cut flower distribution, buttressed by e-commerce sales, is also taking off again. And just in time. With nearly 30 percent of adults in the U.S. purchasing flowers or plants to give to others on Christmas and Hanukkah, many will also click and buy blooms for themselves.

As you’ll recall, early in the pandemic, retailers struggled to keep floral shelves stocked, due to shortages in production and a lack of transport capacity. Since May, however, the industry has gradually gotten back on track. In fact, according to the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), after two months of near identical gains, floral sales gains actually exceeded fresh produce growth by about one percentage point in September.

Here again, the increased prevalence of e-commerce is feeding growth in this key market segment. Although the idea of simply clicking on a button to order fresh flowers is nothing new for this industry, now that consumers are wary of mingling with other shoppers, they appreciate the sterility offered by the flower e-commerce industry.

Life as We Knew It

The pandemic has reshaped life as we know it, and in the process, has accelerated consumer reliance on alternative means of accessing food and merchandise. So buckle up, this e-commerce boom is not going away any time soon.

For 20 years, our customers have depended on Prime Group to smooth out the bumps in the road by identifying ways to swiftly adapt and respond to sudden and sustained changes that affect the cold supply chain.

Just know we’re here with you for the entire ride.

Prime Group Has Its Marching Orders in the Battle Against COVID-19

Every answer begins with a question. But these days, there seem to be so many questions, especially within the global logistics industry. Chief among them—are we ready with cold chain solutions to respond to the onslaught of COVID-19 vaccines once they’re ready for worldwide delivery?

At the Prime Group, the answer is yes. We are prepared.

As a company specializing in solid answers and smart solutions for its customers, we understand answers don’t always come easy, particularly in the midst of such a long-lasting “critical event” as a global pandemic.

Significant variability has always been the Achilles’ heel of the global supply chain. Natural disasters, equipment failure, civil unrest, terrorism, blight – at least we knew what the basic categories were. But a pandemic with the power to shut down the entire global economy? That one wasn’t even on the radar screen!

And now, we are facing an all new phase of this novel “variable”—the release of billions of doses of highly-sensitive vaccines and the challenges that will present for a worldwide infrastructure to support rapid distribution and deployment all across the planet.

No small task.

By focusing on what we do well and applying new strategies in operating our businesses, I am confident that we can and will succeed in providing the right answers and solutions for our customers—and the world.   

It’s been said wars are won by superior logistics more than battles. It would appear we’ve got our marching orders.

Transport

The most important element of logistics is transport—and this is where Prime Group clearly excels. Without transport, goods are unable to move from one stage to another within a supply chain. We are supremely experienced in transporting complex time- and temperature-sensitive products all over the world. And we stand ready.

Our long-time relationships with some of the world’s largest and most reliable air cargo carriers and our proven expertise in managing ad-hoc cargo charter operations positions us well to do our part in expediting vaccines and other pharmaceutical products when and where it is needed most.

There is going to be an unprecedented demand for cargo space, far greater than there was for PPE at the advent of the pandemic. As the Prime Group was able to pivot and perform then, we are confident we can do it again for this next round.

Storage & Material Handling

The prevailing pre-pandemic logic, the old normal if you will, was that consumers tend not to demand goods at the same rate as a manufacturer supplies them. In supplying the entire world with a vaccine, that idea is about to be turned on its head.

This is where the role of cold storage, material handling, and warehousing comes in as well as the ability to better track and monitor the shipments. It is also an area of recent focus by the Prime Group—the rollout of enhanced state-of-the-art inventory tracking and product monitoring technologies.

To maintain the integrity and effectiveness of the cold supply chain, we are adding capacity among our network of temperature-controlled warehouses at key international transit points. We are also coordinating the necessary manpower and services needed on the ground at anticipated staging locations where the vaccines will be delivered to government agencies and world health organizations.

Packaging

Next is the role of packaging. With regard to the care and condition of the vaccine products, resilient packaging will be essential. But more than that, when released for emergency use, we expect this new class of COVID vaccines will come with strict temperature requirements, perhaps ranging between -70 and -80 degrees Celsius, and consistent temperature management.

With expansive knowledge and experience in the transport of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals, the Prime Group is trained and ready to employ stringent government-approved procedures and staff at its strategically-positioned network of refrigerated warehouses to ensure product stability throughout the last-mile network.

Information & Control

In meeting the demand for reliable distribution of vaccines and crucial medical supplies, timeliness and accuracy of information is critical. Global supply chain visibility and event notification are key to Prime Group’s ability to meet customer demand and service reliability. Visibility starts with the ability to answer very basic questions: Where is it? When will it arrive? Is the expected date different from the planned date?

These days, we know we cannot simply look at past data to create models on which we can base long-term predictions. Instead, we must rely on short-term predictions. By partnering with leaders in the field of global IT software development, Prime Group has been redefining and digitizing its operations for enhanced efficiency, adaptability, readiness, and performance.

At such a strategically crucial moment, when there is so much at stake, we need fast access to mission-critical insights to meet the needs of our customers. Prime Group is also exploring AI-powered augmented analytics to help us explore and analyze data that will trigger various operational procedures essential to the on-time and safe delivery of refrigerated cargo from origin to destination.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about tremendous change in the way that the Prime Group delivers necessary cargo quickly and efficiently around the world. As a result, we are in a better position than ever.

And as we see signs that researchers and pharmaceutical companies are on the verge of having a viable vaccine, we know that their success in winning the battle against this disease depends on an our ability to deliver.