Case study

How a leading poultry supplier leveraged real-time temperature data to mitigate supply chain risk

A tale of two supply chains

Supplier A is a key poultry supplier serving major restaurant and retail grocery chains throughout the United States. The Supplier had been experiencing challenges in their supply chain that impacted two major customers: one, a food retailer and the other a restaurant chain, each with several units located throughout the southern U.S. In both cases, Supplier A’s customers were experiencing premature spoilage, and wanted to determine what was happening and how it could be remedied.

Supplier A had previously attempted to identify the root cause of these cold chain failures by performing studies using traditional offline temperature loggers. Those efforts were inconclusive and unsuccessful due to a lack of real-time temperature, location, and light event visibility.

Supplier A asked Controlant to perform two separate root cause investigations using Controlant’s unique combination of real-time Internet of Things (IoT) temperature tracking data loggers, cloud-enabled software platform, and cold chain services.

Controlant’s investigational services team worked with Supplier A to define the objectives and the scope of the study, timeframe, and deliverables. A program manager with expertise in data analysis was assigned to analyze the root cause suggestions provided by the Controlant data.

To observe natural behavior, the Controlant IoT devices were placed with shipments anonymously. Controlant’s monitoring and response service (MARS) team was asked only to observe events, and was asked to not automatically respond to environmental deviations in order to enable an uninterrupted view into the end-to-end supply chain.

Getting to the root cause

Restaurant customer

Supplier A had been experiencing a high rate of return of shipments going to the restaurant chain’s locations and wanted to dig deeper to find the root cause.

An initial focal point for the temperature study pertained to poultry shipping by truck from Supplier A’s production site to several distribution centers. Controlant’s IoT data loggers containing a variety of environmental sensors, including for temperature, location, and light were placed with the products inside boxes included with each shipment.

Temperature, time, and product location data was continuously made available via the Controlant software platform and viewable on demand. Shipment notifications and alerts were displayed within the dashboard data. If temperatures started to deviate beyond the established shipment boundaries, an alert was sent to designated stakeholders via SMS and email. 

The second focal point of the temperature study pertained to shipments moving from the distribution centers to the restaurants units. The Controlant IoT data loggers remained with the products while they moved from the distribution centers and were placed into reefers to be transported through the last-mile to the individual restaurants.

The third focal point pertained to Supplier A’s poultry products that had arrived at the restaurant units. Upon arrival, the Controlant IoT data loggers were placed inside the restaurant unit’s onsite coolers, where they remained with the products until the poultry was removed for preparation. 

Of the 16 shipments monitored in total from the production site, to the distribution center and from the distribution center to restaurant units, there were 9 excursions, totalling 56% of all shipments.  

Controlant’s data revealed that temperature excursions were occurring onsite at the restaurant units, where temperatures were consistently running between 40-45°F. Prior to reaching the restaurant locations, the shipments were kept at their optimum temperature, below 40°F. However, upon reaching the restaurants, the temperature excursions were typically lasting for several days. The data was consistent across the numerous shipments.

Result:  Armed with tangible data that pinpointed the exact time and locations of the temperature deviations, Supplier A was able to identify the root cause. From there, Supplier A worked with its restaurant customer to adjust the onsite temperature settings and proactively reduce the number of returned poultry shipments caused by an exposure to excessive temperatures.

Retail customer

Supplier A similarly ran a temperature study for poultry moving from its production site to a distribution center, and from the distribution center to several retail grocery stores throughout the southern U.S. The study ran during the warmest summer months, between July and August.

Controlant’s Supply Chain Management IoT data loggers with sensors to continuously monitor environmental conditions in real-time were placed on the palette level to monitor against the ambient temperatures monitored on the reefer level by the carrier. 

Of the 33 shipments monitoring poultry moving from Supplier A’s production site to the distribution center and from the distribution center to retail locations, there were 16 excursions, totalling 48% of all shipments.

Controlant’s temperature and location data revealed that temperatures were running too low on the way to the distribution center, often below 25°F, and in some instance, below 20°F. Cold spikes lasted anywhere from 3-13 hours.

A freeze cycle that is too cold can stimulate microbes that accelerate spoilage rates and impact shelf life as well as product safety. Once placed inside the open-air meat coolers at the grocery store locations, the impact on shelf life can accelerate due to the inconsistent temperatures and further reduce shelf life time.

Digging deeper, the Controlant data demonstrated that the root cause was due to the trailers being kept at cooler temperatures than was prescribed. This measure was likely taken by the carrier to compensate for the hot outside temperatures and to prevent temperatures inside the reefer from rising beyond the designated temperature boundaries.

Result:  Supplier A was able to share the temperature results with the carrier in order to adjust the reefer temperatures, drive continuous improvements and mitigate risk.

Driving continuous improvement

Armed with real-time temperature, time, and product location traceability data, Supplier A gained greater visibility over the supply chain. Root cause suggestions, along with the data analysis provided by Controlant’s services team, enabled Supplier A to facilitate immediate corrective actions to help prevent further temperature excursions leading to product waste and reducing the costs of poultry product replenishment.

Controlant’s real-time solution can be used in a follow-up temperature study to compare spoilage and product return/waste rates that were transported after the temperatures were modified inside the trailers and restaurant coolers, and to verify to what extent those actions had a noticeable impact. Alternatively, the solution can be used to monitor every shipment from production site through the last-mile, providing further insights and driving continuous improvements.

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