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Case Study: Keeping Track of Fresh-Cut Flowers

Understanding the temperature-controlled supply chain to ensure product quality

Closeup of flowers

All temperature-controlled supply chains are not created equal. Fresh-cut flowers are a unique commodity with specific needs—which means distributors need an explicit understanding of their supply chain. For example, because flowers are delicate and valued for their visual beauty, proper temperature maintenance during transport is essential. Any improper handling can dramatically reduce shelf life, vase life, and product quality. In addition, the flower market experiences several major peak seasons, particularly around holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. A shipment loss during a period of high demand can cause huge disruptions. When it comes to temperature control for fresh-cut flowers, there is little room for uncertainty.

The Risks

The majority of non-chilling sensitive flower varieties should be maintained at temperatures between 0°C and 1°C (32°F - 34°F). Deviations from this range can quickly reduce vase life and quality, because flowers respond almost immediately to their ambient environment. As a result, rapid cooling and constant, adequate temperature maintenance throughout the entire cold chain is essential to reduce quality issues, such as:

  • Increased respiration rates
  • Gray mold (Botrytis cinerea)
  • Wilting
  • Early senescence (biological aging)

The high export value and seasonality of cut flowers makes temperature monitoring during transport and distribution particularly important. During holiday-related peak seasons, shipment loss can be costly and result in a lack of required stock levels, as many distributors do not have replacement shipments available.

Temperature maintenance of ground-transported and air-freighted flowers is difficult, and temperature-abuse is common in the industry. The transportation and distribution of fresh-cut flowers is a multi-step process with many areas for potential cold chain breaks including:

  • Harvesting
  • Cooling facilities
  • Ground or air transit
  • Cross docks
  • Distribution centers
  • Retailers

Understanding exactly when and where temperature issues are occurring in the supply chain is valuable for driving continuous improvement and increasing product quality, ultimately increasing profit margins and brand integrity.

Real-Time Insights with the TempTale® GEO

SensiWatch Tracks Map showing trip from California to Oklahoma

Temperature graph of fresh-cut flower shipment

Above: The temperature graph and map displays real-time ambient temperature and location data collected by a TempTale® GEO monitor during a shipment of fresh-cut flowers. High, ideal, and low temperature limits are determined by the customer based on commodity.

Sensitech’s TempTale GEO monitors are perfect for the floral industry, monitoring shipments and identifying deviations in the cold chain before product quality is impacted. These monitors provide real-time temperature and location visibility, allowing shippers, receivers, or transportation providers to know exactly where and when deviations occur. For example in the U.S. in 2015, one customer monitored 700 shipments of cut flowers using the TempTale GEO datalogger. Of those shipments, 59% triggered high temperature alarms. High and low temperature alarms are triggered when ambient temperature specifications for the shipment exceed a programmable threshold. Real-time alarms allow customers to react immediately, preventing damage or product loss.

In a separate case, a supplier used TempTale GEO monitors to track shipments of fresh-cut flowers all the way to the retailer, and it was determined that the flowers were being held at improper temperatures at a critical hand-off in-transit. Product was being re-palletized over a five-hour period, at a cross-docking facility whose dock temperatures were 12.8°C (55°F). As a result, flower temperature spiked more than 10 degrees during that portion of the cold chain. Another supplier, using the TempTale GEO monitors on shipments of cut flowers in Europe, discovered that flowers were being exposed to chilling temperatures during transit from the packing facility to the store. The use of the TempTale GEO dataloggers by these two suppliers provided visibility and allowed them to determine exactly where temperature abuse was occurring.

To help avoid postharvest disorders, ensure quality and vase life, and maximize profit, maintaining adequate temperatures during the distribution of fresh-cut flowers is critical. Real-time monitoring is a powerful way to make improvements to the cold chain both during and after transportation, reducing the risk of damaging a valuable and sensitive commodity.

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