What does an intelligent cold chain look like?

Cold chain management   17 Oct 2018

Modern supply chains require modern solutions for greater efficiency, risk reduction, and agility. 

As cold chains—the segment of the supply chain that applies to products requiring strict, uninterrupted temperature control—grow more complex every day, business leaders need to take on a more strategic role to optimize their global supply chains across all lanes—air, road, rail, and sea. Spreadsheets, emails, PDFs, and paper are no longer an effective and efficient way to gain control of today’s far-reaching supply chain. This holds true in the cold chain, where temperature-sensitive and perishable goods must remain within strict temperature ranges or they lose quality integrity and may be unsafe for consumption. 

Companies need to share information with their suppliers, customers, and supply chain partners, which might include specific shipment, product, and quality data, to effectively manage the global cold chain. Having a single source of truth for all participants to view and share results in faster decisions, fewer errors, reduced costs and improved productivity. For instance, export or import customs forms require collaboration with suppliers and other parties. Where have my products been? At which temperatures? Are they safe to move forward to the next leg of their journey through the supply chain?

Answering these questions and others is a challenge if companies are working with largely manual processes. Implementing a digital platform that can be used globally provides the ability to collect and share these answers, eliminating inefficiency and redundancy, and increasing speed-to-market.

Attributes of a smart cold chain

Today’s smart cold chains substantially reduce manual entry, collect the right kinds of data and turn them into insights that support growth and sustainability through increased operational efficiencies and waste reduction.

Today’s intelligent cold chain is:

  • Secure - Ensures that only the right people, systems, and things have access to the right data at the right time, and only for so long as they need it.
  • Connected - Enables growth through an extended digital ecosystem that brings stakeholders together to improve trust and efficiency. 
  • Collaborative - Promotes a rich, collaborative ecosystem with the flexibility to share mutually beneficial data as needed.
  • Intelligent - Boosts competitive edge through data insights to predict outcomes, optimize and automate business operations, and support better decision making.

Leveraging cost reduction and efficiency through automation

Automation is increasingly everywhere. Whether that’s cashierless grocery shopping, or self-driving cars, it’s all around us and on the horizon. For automation to take off, it requires digital data.

The same holds true for the global cold chain. Automation cannot be leveraged against unstructured data that exists in silos, on paper, PDF files, Word documents, and emails. 

As temperature-sensitive and perishable products move through the global cold chain, a digital platform with automated business insights enables accurate and predictive forecasting—for instance, which lanes present the least risk at this time per year, given variables such as weather patterns, labor market trends, and so on. Impactful data also facilitates proactive waste reduction and cost savings through shipment interception and an exception-based management process, where time and resources only need to focus on the areas that require attention. Digitalization means that key conditions are processed and targeted alerts and notifications are automatically sent so that immediate corrective action can be taken. 

Unlocking the value of insights to improve cold chain efficiency

Businesses and stakeholders are looking to identify key areas in the supply chain that present the greatest risk and ways to mitigate them. When the global supply chain is digitized, every decision, event, and shipment and cross-border transaction is captured and preserved. This makes is possible to analyze the data and discover hidden opportunities, creating enormous value over time.

Supply chain partner performance is an area where cold chain analytics and insights can have a substantial impact. Perhaps a supplier or a freight forwarder is less expensive, but they are not performing according to their service agreement. With detailed data, businesses are better able to understand why it is happening and what the impact is on the bottom line, and ultimately work with you partners to identify the issues and improve those relationships. This type of analytical tool and process provides a continuous loop of feedback.

While data and documentation are critical to fulfilling regulatory requirements and improving productivity and customer service, cold chain analytics provide even greater value when they inform better business decisions and generate ongoing feedback.

Business and supply chain leaders need visibility to meaningful information, distilled from granular data, to inform their decision-making and long-term business strategy.

Gaining control of the global supply chain to boost the bottom line

Progressive C-levels are recognizing the value of bringing global cold chain management to provide greater control, improved high-level visibility, and granular data to make smart business decisions that benefit the company as well as customers and partners. They are hungry for analytics that will provide them with information to help them optimize their global business.

Business leaders are needing a new set of tools to support the requirements of modern supply chain management. Spreadsheets and emails are too slow and too unreliable as companies scale their global operations. Today, these leaders are looking for even more data to further improve supply chain performance and provide competitive advantages in the global marketplace.

Cold chains will only become more complex in a global environment driven by increasing consumer demands, population growth, opportunities, and competitive pressures. A centralized solution that offers a single version of the truth provides the collaboration, automation, and insights necessary to compete, adapt, and thrive. Visionary chiefs will lead the effort to digitize the global supply chain and transform their business operations in to an agile and efficient business function.

Most companies today are managing their global supply chains in a highly inefficient manner. These practices create additional costs, loss of control, and visibility black holes. An intelligent cold chain is the key to enabling collaboration, automation, and analytics, which creates a high performing global supply chain, leading to a true competitive advantage in the market.

An automated solution, like Controlant’s, consisting of a centralized platform powered by IoT that can deliver real-time temperature and product movement visibility, provides the data needed for better risk reduction, operational efficiency, and supply chain agility.

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