How The ‘Cold Chain’ Keeps Hearts Warm This Mother’s Day

Richard Howells

Mother’s Day is May 13. (You’re welcome for the reminder.)

This year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that U.S. consumers will spend $23.1 billion celebrating the holiday. Shoppers will spend an average of $180 on their moms – with 31% of consumers buying their gifts online.

Based on the latest figures, most children will give their moms flowers (69%). In fact, buyers will spend an estimated $2.6 billion on flowers this Mother’s Day.

And while many people view flowers as the easy choice for a Mother’s Day gift, few understand the complexity it takes to deliver these beautiful blossoms to mom.

A flower’s complicated journey

So, how do flowers get from the shopping cart on your mobile device to your mother’s front door?

The answer is more complicated than you think. It involves a “cold chain” that spans continents and requires speed, logistics, and refrigeration.

Many of the flowers delivered to U.S. mothers are grown in Latin America. They’re cut at dawn, packed in temperature-controlled coolers, and shipped to the local airport. In most cases, they’re flown directly to Miami, the distribution hub for 90% of flowers imported into the United States in 2017.

In Miami, they go through a 24-hour inspection process before they’re sent to flower distributors along the East Coast (and beyond) in refrigerated trucks. Upon arrival, they’re stored in temperature-controlled distribution centers and warehouses until they’re packaged, shipped, and finally displayed for sale as “fresh cut” in stores.

Sound easy? I don’t think so.

An expensive disruption in the cold chain

Flowers have a shelf life of about 10 days. One day lost in the supply chain equals a 10% loss in shelf life, costing big bucks for wholesalers and breaking hearts for moms.

What happens if the cold chain is disrupted at any point? Say the refrigeration unit fails. You’re talking about a lot of money. An average truck carries 700 to 800 boxes of flowers, with each box valued around $250. So, one faulty refrigeration unit could easily cost upwards of $180,000 in lost inventory.

The Internet of Things (IoT) to the rescue

Introducing Internet of Things (IoT) technology into the cold chain could save companies a bundle.

With sensors that monitor the temperature inside delivery vehicles, drivers, logistics coordinators, and other interested parties:

  • Have visibility into when a refrigeration unit is too hot or cold
  • Know if and when the freezer system requires maintenance
  • Understand what measures must be taken to save the shipment

Decreasing damage and waste by as little as 10% could result in millions of dollars in savings. It’ll also improve service for the world’s most important customer: your mother.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!

To learn more about how technologies such as IOT can help you reimagine your supply chain processes, register to read the IDC Infobrief.

Follow me on twitter @howellsrichard.

About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.