A recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group found that a staggering 2.1 billion tons of food worth $1.5 trillion would be wasted by 2030 across the fleet value chain. It becomes extremely acute for developing countries where maximum wastage occurs across the production and transportation cycle. For developed countries with a sophisticated cold chain infrastructure, the wastage is more focused at the consumption phase.
The perishable goods industry like agriculture and pharmaceuticals are dependent on the cold supply chain efficiencies. Almost $260 million of annual pharma sales are dependent on cold chains. Global perishable trade relies on tightly managed and visible cold supply chains. The emerging global trade avenues, political instability and compliance regulations has further amplified the need for real time monitoring of cold supply chains to ensure prompt actionable insights.
The changing needs of cold logistics
The human consumption has come a long way from humble beginnings from ferrying iced produce across the sea. Today consumers are extremely sensitive about the food safety and rising popularity of “Glocal or farm-to-table” produce has made real time monitoring of cold chains inevitable. For example, poultry can never be chilled beyond 26 degrees to be considered as “fresh” thus creating a small window for market acceptance. Similarly, high priority for temperature control is necessary for life saving vaccines and pricey cancer medicines.
Cold logistics is not limited to temperature information. Today real time monitoring invests in latest technologies that involve GPS, RFID tags, IoT, end-to-end package traceability solutions, document management and sensory equipment that ensure real-time visibility into everything in transit. So, if your truck is stranded at a tarmac in Nicaragua due to paperwork or the driver has taken a really bumpy road to destination, real time monitoring can provide you actionable information to take instant remedial actions.
Money is in the documentation
Real time monitoring of cold chains are important with increasing compliance and regulatory needs. Robust documentation is the need of the hour to prove the organizational supply chain competence. The receiver or the regulatory authority like FDA can demand paperwork that can prove that poultry was stored at 26 degrees throughout the journey. Documents underpinned by real time monitoring reports can quickly resolve disputes and prove compliance readiness.
Real time monitoring solutions are extremely critical in managing equipment and logistical integrity. For example, door monitors provide visibility in to how long the doors have been open and the number of times loading and unloading happened. Pharmaceutical companies need to adhere to the Good Distribution Practice guidelines that focus on visibility and reliability of their supply chains. Medicines are shipped as per the label claims and the entire supply chain has to adhere to the storage stipulations. Real time monitoring solutions helps in maintaining a keen eye over the product journeys and ensures hassle free deliveries at customer sites.
Evolving security concerns
Piracies near the Somali coast or hacking the digital supply chain to divert shipments, the emerging sophistication of external concerns are proving critical for the supply chain integrity. Smart monitors, RFID tags and BLE solutions can act as passive loggers and utilize mobile connectivity to broadcast information through the internet. This ensures that simple drop in cellular connectivity does not affect the data uplink.
Real time alerts can also result in false positives. Therefore, data needs to be cleansed, analyzed and vetted to create actionable business insights. Machine learning and predictive algorithms are now the new stars in the block. Artificial Intelligence can crunch data from diverse sources and channels like weather, traffic reports, ERP systems, external tracking feeds and unstructured data to create a comprehensive view of the cold supply chain. Checking a package in transit to tampering with security installations, real time connectivity is now the new normal.
Optimizing resources for increased ROI
Real time monitoring is extremely important in managing business and operational aspects of the supply chain. Sensors and monitoring systems are essential in tracking fuel usage, managing transit traffic, identifying engine and mileage concerns and optimal fleet allocation. Fortune 500 companies like Walmart and Amazon are employing real time monitoring with AI capabilities to manage routes, scheduling deliveries, optimizing their fleets and managing procurement to reduce their operational costs.
The Road Ahead
The further ready cold chains are looking at multiple avenues to minimize risks of product delivery through centralized controls and monitoring. From the technology perspective real time monitoring adds value to scale the supply chain. Next wave of innovation has already emerged with the power of analytics, machine learning and AI to drive an efficient, reliable and controlled cold chain.