This paper takes the cold chain transportation industry as the starting point, researches the existing problems in the cold chain transportation industry and combines with the current status of industry and the mainstream mode of cold chain transportation and the advantages of the block chain technology to analyze industry pain points and provide the targeted solving ideas.
Background of Cold Chain Logistics
冷链物流(Cold Chain Logistics) 泛指冷藏冷冻类食品在生产、贮藏运输、销售，到消费前的各个环节中始终处于规定的低温环境下，以保证食品质量，减少食品损耗的一项系统工程。目前冷链物流主要适用领域有三部分：
Cold Chain Logistics generally refers to a system engineering that refrigerated and frozen food is always stored at low temperature as specified in every link from production, preservation and transportation, sales and pre-consumption to ensure food quality and reduce food loss. At present, cold chain logistics is applicable to three fields:
First is quick-frozen food, represented by Sanquan and Synear. Quick-frozen food is strict with preservation and transportation requirements, which must be carried out at the temperature of -18℃. However, the professional, socialized quick-frozen food cold chain distribution system which can constantly adapt to market changes has not yet been formed.
Second is the dairy product, represented by Mengniu, Yili, Bright and other dairy enterprises. Dairy products are extremely sensitive to transportation temperature, so mainstream dairy companies are strict with the transportation temperature of fresh milk.
Third is agricultural and sideline products, represented by Yurun chilled meat. At present, corresponding scale has not been formed in China’s cold chain transportation of agricultural and sideline products. It is mainly due to high construction cost of cold chain for agricultural products, large floor space of the warehouse and high timeliness of the commodities, making it difficult to form a full-range agricultural product cold chain logistics platform.
According to the above three fields, we can analyze the different distribution mode in each field. At present, the mainstream cold chain distribution modes can mainly be divided into three types:
First is the self-built logistics system, mainly represented by the proprietary e-commerce platforms such as JD and Tmall. It has its own complete logistics system, so it can rely on the mature technology and strong capital to complete the construction of the cold chain system. Or like Synear or Sanquan and other quick-frozen food industry leaders with huge turn volume, they will establish a complete cold chain logistics system to reduce the total cost.
Second is to establish a cold chain transportation alliance. Cold chain logistics center requires big investment and has a longer return period, so it is not suitable for small and medium-sized enterprises. Recently, small and medium-sized enterprises usually adopt the way to form an alliance with logistics enterprises and industrial and commercial enterprises.
Third is the company that fully outsourced to a third-party logistics service provider. Take Mcdonald’s for example, its distribution services are provided by HAVI, in which case the advantage is that the company will pay attention to its main business without need to be bothered by the logistics.
The above types have their own advantages, so that different types and sizes of enterprises can have diversified options for construction of the cold chain distribution system. For large groups and other enterprises whose own business is overlapped with the cold chain industry, typically they will choose to construct their own cold chain logistics system to complete their own business system. Small and medium-sized enterprises generally choose to make use of the alliance to construct the cold chain distribution system, so that they can make better use of the limited capital to better construct some of their own cold chain system. For newly-established firms or start-up companies, they usually will choose to outsource to develop their own core business and avoid the capital and labor costs incurred by non-core business.
Analysis of Industry Pain Points
After analysis of the status of industry as mentioned above, we can analyze that there are at least three pain points in the field of the cold chain transportation:
First, carrier is often replaced in the complex trans-regional transportation process, especially in the process of trans-national cold chain transportation, so temperature shall be recorded and tracked in real time, and it may play an important role to clarify the carrier’s responsibilities when problems are found in the goods. However, responsibility is undefined due to poor timeliness of the temperature record at present.
Second, the temperature records are automatically collected, manually recorded and finally uploaded to the central database in most cases. Artificial statistics are prone to deviations, or there may be a possibility to affect the record results subjectively. In addition, the recording mode of the center database is less reliable, so important data shall be provided with redundant backup.
Third, scattered goods can be found in the case where third-party logistics transportation is adopted, especially in the field of agricultural products. At present, it is difficult to achieve resource sharing and maximize the use of equipment due to non-transparent transportation capacity.
So with regard to the current pain points and combined with the current more cutting-edge technology block chain, we will look for some holes and ideas.
Block Chain and New Ideas
People who have some knowledge of the block chain technology shall know that it mainly has the following characteristics. First is the decentralization and multi-participation regulation. Second is good stability and high reliability of the technical architecture. Third is the open and transparent record which cannot be tampered with. At present, we can draw the following ideas in combination with the analysis of industry pain points as mentioned above.
First, the recyclable temperature sensor (through the open-source SDK and Chronicled API to support Blockchain) can be used to record the goods information in real time and match the temperature and location information to put such comprehensive information on the chain. If the goods go bad during circulation due to temperature change, it is easy to get in touch with the responsible carrier. At the same time, it can also be combined with intelligent contract, so that it will automatically send an alarm to the goods owner and carrier in case of abnormal temperature for a long time to avoid greater losses as well as information recalling in case of such problem.
Second, for the decentralization characteristics of the block chain itself, the distributed network can naturally overcome various disadvantages in the centered system, and the disintermediation feature also avoids the possibility to affect the record results subjectively when manually recording.
Third, the open and transparent characteristics of the record of the block chain technology can be used to share their own carrying capacity with more customers to maximize the utilization of cold chain logistics resources.
Fourth is to combine the characteristics of multi-participation and real-time regulation of the block chain technology. Through the way of small and medium-sized enterprises to establish the cold chain distribution system based on the alliance and combined with intelligent contract to incorporate into real-time regulation, the block chain technology shall be used to establish the big cold chain distribution ecology. The alliance shall be formed not only in form and capital, the all-round data sharing and the consensual intelligent contract shall be used for constraint, and the risks shall be regulated and restrained in real time to finally achieve the cold chain distribution resource ecology integrating capital flow, logistics, information flow and business flow.
From the four ideas listed above, we can know that we can make full use of the new technology to achieve technology and mode innovation in the cold chain industry through technology innovation of the block chain.
In this paper, the analysis ideas listed in combination with the characteristics of the block chain are just the application of the block chain in the field of cold chain transportation at the stage of goods transshipment. In fact, the block chain technology also has the same broad application space in other links throughout the cold chain transportation process. At the same time, the block chain technology approaches perfection day by day, so we seize the opportunity of technology update and iteration to bring us more ideas and directions, ensure food safety, promote citizens to upgrade consumption and improve the level of informatization of the industry, so as to finally drive the development of the cold chain logistics industry.