Building A Smart Cold Chain: Technology Solutions for Visibility, Product Integrity, and Efficiency
This month, we’re focusing on the cold chain. Our previous blog focused on current challenges in securing cold storage and how businesses can mitigate them. This week, we’re focusing on how cold chain technology can provide you with visibility, keep your products in optimal condition, and make your operations more efficient.
A digitized and connected supply chain is important, but this can be even more true of cold chains. Not only are these goods prone to damage and expiration, but cold chain products are frequently products like food or pharmaceutical goods. For example, when the most commonly-transported cold chain product categories outlined in the North American Refrigerated Trailer Survey Report are totalled into broader categories, food makes up 94% of products, and pharmaceuticals and flowers make up 6%. In light of this, making sure products arrive at their destination safely is of utmost importance.
In addition to product safety, keeping products in the right environmental conditions is also crucial for preventing product waste. For example, in 2019, Supply Chain Dive reported on a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which outlined that 40% of food waste occurred before reaching the consumer, and outlined how spoilage in transit played a role in this figure. Similarly, according to FoodMag, in 2020, “a study by the Melbourne-based Expert Group, for the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, and Refrigerant Australia, revealed failures in the cold food chain costs the Australian economy billions of dollars in farm gate value.”
It’s no surprise that there’s been significant attention placed on both digitization and standardizing data. A few suggestions include singular ownership over temperature throughout the chain of custody, standardization of metrics, or standards and regulations for monitoring products throughout the cold chain. While the suggested approaches may differ depending on each market and situation, it’s safe to say that many players in the industry see better tracking as part of improving the cold chain.
A smarter cold chain, and synchronized supply chain as a whole, can help work towards
3 Ways Building A Smart Cold Chain Benefits Your Operation
Gaining Deeper Insights Into Your Cold Chain With Data from IoT Technologies
Data collection is a core component of creating a smarter supply chain. To this end, many companies are turning to IoT devices. When it comes to cold chain, safety, compliance, settlement, orders,
and fleet can all be considered integrated data layers, and IoT solutions can tie into the levels of
this data “layer cake.”
However, what’s just as important as gathering data is making sure it is relevant, accessible, and contextualized.
For example, Routeique’s Smart Chain Sensor helps monitor products throughout the supply chain. This IoT tool adds context to the data in the rest of our system.
Routeique’s platform provides comprehensive information without IoT data, but when IoT cold chain technology is added into the equation, it paints an even broader picture.
Even without data gathered with the sensor, Routeique’s system provides information on orders, product weight, size, tolerances, routes, who it was delivered to and when, and previous points in the supply chain. However, IoT data provides additional information, not to mention proof. The sensors can confirm product location and provide a breakdown of environmental conditions.
Our system combines and aggregates all of this data, so you can easily spot problems or isolate your investigation when things go wrong. For example, you could see that light or temperature was outside of acceptable range on a specific route at a certain time. This would allow you to correct the problem as soon as it’s noticed and look into that route to see what might be causing the issue.
We are also developing solutions to allow businesses to use the data for predictive or forward-looking purposes. For example, if data from a sensor indicates a problem with the environmental conditions on one truck, you can load products onto other trucks until the problem is solved.
Ensuring Product Integrity and Security
Preventable damage to foods or pharmaceuticals is wasteful, but it can be harmful to consumers’ health if the damage goes undetected.
Warehouse or transportation teams can use IoT solutions to detect environmental issues as soon as they happen, rather than waiting for the problem to be discovered at the retail point or the customer. This helps boost safety, eliminates waste, and lowers your costs overall.
Similarly, electronic seal technology can also replace plastic seals in areas like the dairy industry while instantly providing information. An electronic or digital seal uses door sensors to note if a product has been tampered with or exposed to environmental conditions during transit between manufacturers and distributors.
Providing Modular, Customizable Solutions
Businesses often have their own unique needs. For this reason, customizable tools that operate reliably within your specific cold chain are essential.
For example, Routeique’s smart chain sensor allows you to choose what environmental conditions to monitor, gas, light, temperature, movement/vibration, or more.
Additionally, it was designed to operate in a range of pressures, humidities, and temperatures. This enables it to work within many different contexts, from frozen to ambient. Additionally, adaptive recording makes sure you can always get the data you need. The system changes reporting frequency depending on the temperature and if the device is running on line-in power or battery. In other words, it’s always recording but adjusts to send out data in an optimal manner.
Want to learn more about cold chain technology? Stay tuned for our upcoming blog on what cold chain KPIs to monitor! You can also browse our past blogs or reach out to our team through the contact form below.