"It won't apply to all cargo, but in general we are now able to guarantee a shelf life of 1 or 2 days more than our competitors." That's the result of an extensive pilot project by KLM and Panalpina Airflo, in cooperation with FlowerWatch. Panalpina Airflo is KLM's main logistics partner on the ground in Kenya; FlowerWatch is a service provider, assisting companies in streamlining the cold chain. And this news is bigger – and the gain greater – than you might think at first glance.
Noud Duyzings, responsible for the Cargo Division in eastern and southern Africa at Air France KLM Martinair, talks about a project they set up together with FlowerWatch and Panalpina Airflo. The main question: How do we get those flowers to the consumer, at competitive prices, while keeping the quality as high as possible?
"In order to answer this question, it was first necessary to analyze the logistical chain in all its details," Noud says. "You then find a number of issues and points of improvement that can be fixed easily, in theory. For instance, Panalpina Airflo could measure the temperature of incoming products more consistently, and drive them into the vacuum cooler faster if they were below a certain level. From our side, we tended to take cargo out of the cold store before incoming cargo had been offloaded, which meant flowers were exposed to the warm air outside without reason. Or – and that's pretty funny – a recommendation on the briefing for the pilot turned out to be a bit unfortunate. It would say something like 'keep this cargo between 2-8 degrees', resulting in the pilot always setting refrigeration to 8 degrees, while a few degrees less would be better. The temperature is now set to 5 degrees tops."
In short: once you've mapped out the chain front to back, having identified all the issues, the next step is recommendations. In theory, those aren't the most complicated 'tricks', although – Noud emphasizes – you do need to apply the right tricks at the right time, and even more difficult, be consistent. Adjusting the briefing for the pilot is one thing. Making sure that nothing goes wrong in, say, 24 hours, is something else.
The pilot projects were concluded a few months ago now. Time to wonder: has shelf life seen structural improvement, or are we back to where we were again? "Of course some things go wrong here and there, but yes: our flowers are set 2 degrees colder on average during transport, which, according to FlowerWatch, corresponds roughly to 2 days of shelf life. And that's not a bad result, when you consider Air France KLM Martinair Cargo is by far the biggest transporter of African flowers to the Netherlands. What's more," Noud concludes, "it's a nice boost in terms of CSR. A longer shelf life, but also the fact that flowers don't have to be cooled again, by definition makes costly transport a lot more sustainable."
For more information:
Jeroen van der Hulst
Panalpina Airflo Ltd
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