Several technologies are closely interacting in a sequential manner to support a cold chain:
- Monitoring. Devices and systems able to monitor the condition of the cold chain, such as temperature and humidity, throughout all the involved stages, namely in the reefer and at the warehouse. These technologies provide an account of the integrity of the chain and help identify potential weaknesses. For instance, the ISO 10368 standard (1992) was established to provide a series of guidelines in order to monitor the temperature of reefers. An old method of temperature monitoring during transport involved Partlow recorders, which were recording temperature fluctuations on a rotating disk. The issue is that these records needed to be physically retrieved. These devices are being phased out and replaced with electronic devices that can remotely monitor and communicate logs and events.
- Fabrication. Cold chain products such as food or pharmaceuticals are fabricated or processed in specialized facilities, requiring specific equipment and methods. For instance, blast freezers can quickly freeze meat, preventing the formation of damaging ice crystals. Once a product is ready to be shipped, various forms of packing technologies (e.g. crates, perforated boxes) are available to help maintain its temperature integrity as well as protect it from damage. Vacuum packing is often used to pack meat efficiently and extend its shelf life.
- Storage. Like any other good, cold chain products can rarely be made immediately available for final consumption and must thus be stored in cold storage facilities. Large refrigerated warehouses are used to store cold chain products until an order has been filled. Further, specialized distribution centers have been designed to support the efficient and timely storage of grocery goods before being brought to the store. Among key technological issues for storage is the better energy efficiency of the facility while maintaining a range of temperatures.
- Terminal. Since a growing quantity of cold chain goods is shipped internationally, transport terminals such as ports and airports are dedicating areas to cold chain logistics. A container port terminal commonly has dedicated space available to store refrigerated containers. There are also terminal facilities that have on-dock refrigerated warehouses.
- Transport. A range of transport technologies are available and have been improved to transport cold chain goods. Reefer vehicles (e.g. trucks) and containers (maritime containers and unit load devices) are among the most common technologies being used. They usually rely on attached refrigeration plants, requiring a power generator.