Moving beyond your cold chain data to leverage new business opportunities

Food & beverage   20 Aug 2018

Real-time cold chain monitoring for perishables is becoming increasingly mission-critical as more high-quality fresh and temperature-sensitive products move through the supply chain every year. Still, approximately 30% of food moving through the supply chain is wasted, in a large part, due to cold chain silos and breakdowns. Food waste and pressure to reduce costs places greater burdens on food service and retail chains struggling for margins.

According to the EPA, in the U.S. alone, 37 million tons of food is wasted every year (closer to 102 million tons according to UN FAO estimates, depending on the data sources, food system stages included, and disposal destinations included). The NRDC’s recent “Wasted” report states that up to 40% of the food produced in the U.S. goes to waste, and this costs us an estimated $218 billion per year. The environmental implications are also considerable. In the U.S., food production consumes up to 16 percent of energy, uses half of land, accounts for 67 percent of freshwater use, and is a significant contributor to climate change — equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 37 million cars.

Solving the food spoilage and safety problem means truly understanding what’s caused or attributed to reduced freshness and waste in the first place, then mitigating risk through preventive and corrective action. Without an effective risk-mitigation program in place, browned strawberries or a single foodborne illness outbreak can inadvertently become the face of your brand.

Real-time, standardized data is necessary for proactive freshness and quality management … but it isn’t sufficient

Most businesses view data as a necessary part of doing business. Whether it’s a quality team retrieving shipment report, an executive reviewing the costs associated with running an effective supply chain, or a food chain reviewing the temperature and food location logs of a trailer filled with fresh produce, meats, poultry, or other proteins to ensure that quality, safety, and freshness is maintained, companies rely on data to make better decisions and improve their operations.

IoT-driven analytics delivered through cloud-enabled dashboard data have helped to shed new light on cold chain and supply chain logistics, protecting food freshness, quality, and safety, and reducing waste. Sensors embedded into wireless and real-time solutions, like Controlant’s, can attach to the inside of a cooling unit or placed directly on the palette level, measure temperature, humidity, pressure, and light for product tampering. GPS measures product location in real-time while products are in transit and at rest, and immediately sends that data into a cloud-based software platform. The solution, which stays with the products throughout the entire supply chain, provides food safety and quality leaders with actionable insights and the ability to proactively intervene if conditions, which might affect food integrity, start to deviate.

Over time, aggregated data can help ensure supply, shorten delivery times, improve shelf life, and expedite the shipment and quality review process.

Data collection is only part of the story; it’s only as useful as the quality of insights that it provides. Incomplete or inaccurate data capture, or focusing on the wrong data altogether, leads to bad analysis and poor decision-making. This is made worse when data collection is a manual or ad hoc process that is prone to error and therefore increases costs and risks.

With most cold chain management solutions, this data often doesn’t shed light on the actual causes of shipping events that can help shape business. The status quo solutions require workers to manually plug in a data logger and upload of data at the end of a shipment, emailing data to stakeholders for each shipment. They do not provide autonomous data collection, which is continuously sent to the cloud for analytics and decision making. Many also only collect ambient data, and do not provide the drill-down information to the palette level in order to truly understand what happened during a product’s journey.

Unless they can fully understand the causative elements behind the event — the root cause — businesses aren’t able to take corrective or efficiency-improving efforts to protect their brand or improve the bottom line. Adoption of truly real-time IoT technology — which doesn’t require gateway installations or manual upload from data loggers to track temperature and movement — can make a critical difference to margins and profitability. Compared to low-tech alternatives, they do a far better job of autonomously providing the level of data and insights needed to make proactive decision making and correct supply chain inefficiencies.

Over time, this data collected helps teams identify and mitigate cold chain risks, gain new insights, reduce product waste, ensure safety, freshness, and quality, and ensure product supply at the right locations. A consistent, higher level of quality leads to happier, loyal customers and a protected business.

Moving beyond your cold chain dashboard data

While there are many benefits to real-time monitoring data for effective cold chain management, the lingering question is how to effectively leverage it. Simply having access to the data isn’t enough.

Despite the best efforts to mitigate risk, cold chain breakdowns can still occur. Companies may not have sufficient internal resources to effectively monitor and manage product shipments while they’re in transit and intervene when a deviation is detected. Most sensor and data logger vendors on the market do not provide the monitoring and response resources needed to adequately leverage the data.

Controlant’s services include a 24/7 monitoring and response team that keeps track of products and shipments moving throughout the entire supply chain, 365 days per year. The team is available to proactively intervene if an environmental deviation starts to occur. This means not only capturing the right kind of data to gain insights into efficiencies and risks across the supply chain, but having the ability to effectively act on that data to prevent waste or food safety incidents from occurring at all. With an increase in directly and indirectly saved costs, companies can instead focus their time and resources on innovating.

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