The logistics industry doesn’t receive much attention when it comes to technological advances. However, technology has always played a critical role in ensuring product integrity and safety in the supply chain. Cold chain technology and monitoring virtually guarantee that critical goods such as food and vaccines arrive safely.
A lot goes into cold chain monitoring systems. Cold chain tech extends well beyond mere storage solutions. Here are four critical technological components that contribute to the efficiency of a cold chain monitoring system.
Condition Monitoring Systems
The phrase “cold chain” conjures images of storage units that are freezing cold. While low temperatures are important for preserving product integrity, other factors play a role. Systems for cold chain monitoring track variables such as humidity, shock, and light, along with the temperature.
These data are recorded by state of the art sensors. However, data logging and transmission is a challenge. After all, recording data is of no use unless logistics teams can receive and analyze it. Here’s where data loggers enter the picture.
Supply chain companies use technology such as USB, RFID, Bluetooth and QR code-based data loggers. Of these, RFID and QR code loggers are the most sought after in 2021.
RFID loggers work off radio waves. A typical RFID system has two parts to it. The first is an RFID tag that is attached to the shipment. The second is an RFID reader. This reader allows logistics employees to receive condition-related data without having to scan goods physically. As a result, data collection is seamless.
QR code loggers are becoming increasingly popular thanks to their simplicity. While RFID requires specialized equipment, QR code loggers are scanned using smartphones and don’t need special instruments. While the codes have to be scanned physically by employees, the lack of technological investment offers cost reduction opportunities.
Thanks to data loggers, companies can monitor the condition of their shipments in real-time and react to adverse changes quickly. They can thus reduce supply chain waste and decrease costs.
The shortest route is always the best right? Not quite. Supply chain companies need to account for variables that are tough to model manually. For example, geopolitical events and regulatory changes are challenging to adapt to.
The shortest route between two points might result in customs delays thanks to the policies of a transit country. Route analytics helps companies avoid such delays and calculate transit times accurately. Shippers can also take storage conditions at transit sites into account when planning a trip.
AI use is increasingly becoming the norm when planning routes. Route optimization systems also take last-mile delivery challenges into account when calculating transit times. For example, if cold chain technology isn’t present or up to scratch at the delivery location, companies need to prepare alternate scenarios to ensure product integrity.
There are other scenarios that such software takes into account as well. For example, shippers can either plan simple route optimization or optimize over their full delivery schedules. The best route for a single shipment might not be the best over multiple ones. A full delivery schedule takes multiple shipments into account and helps companies deliver products in the best way possible.
Route analytics makes this a breeze and helps shippers model different scenarios to create the most efficient shipping routes.
Powerful analytics are of no use unless backed up with action. Real-time alerts allow everyone in the supply chain to react on time and respond decisively to adverse events. Condition-related data is the focus of real-time alerts, and they’re an invaluable feature.
Supply chain losses account for 40% of waste in North America. According to a study conducted by the food sustainability firm ReFed, companies spend over $218 billion to grow and distribute this wasted food. It’s safe to say that reducing losses is a priority in the supply chain industry.
Real-time alerts are powerful thanks to their endless configurability. Managers can set thresholds and react to adverse changes quickly. Real-time condition monitoring allows supply chain companies to alert transportation drivers to these changes and take remedial action immediately.
Alerts also help logistics managers to react to changes along delivery routes. Once the manager is alerted, they can use analytics to map optimal routes and reroute their delivery vehicles optimally.
The power of analytics within modern condition monitoring systems helps companies uncover weak areas and optimize endlessly. Thanks to audit trails, supply chain managers can dissect their processes and narrow inefficiencies minutely.
They can track the performance of their logistics vendors and uncover performance patterns. For example, some vendors might experience a dip in performance during certain times of the year. Another scenario might uncover risk with a local logistics provider at certain times of the year thanks to changing weather patterns.
Performance analytics also allow supply chain providers to identify causes of failure and determine responsibility. If a shipment was damaged, was it because of improper storage at the origin, or was it because of poor transportation? The answer to this question has cost and insurance implications.
Analytics makes this easy to track and helps companies answer questions about their operations.
More Than Just Refrigerators
Cold chain technology extends well beyond cold storage units. Condition monitoring helps all businesses in the supply chain ensure the products we consume are fresh and safe. As cold chain monitoring technology improves, we can expect greater sustainability across industries and more efficient workflows.