A technological vision for cold chain professionals
May 17, 2011
Consumption moves toward healthy food and fresh produce, most of what we buy is perishable and life was greatly affected by the temperature fluctuations in the supply chain. Get the right balance and the optimum temperature is a critical issue in the logistics of fresh food and the most important is the efficient and effective conditions of cold chain monitoring. But, in addition to the poor quality of food, leaving a bad taste to consumers and selling less of what they would sell if the products were in their perfect state, it is a clear impact on costs, which are increased according to the margin achieved with fresh products.
The aforementioned cold chain is one of the more vulnerable aspects of the supply of fresh food chain and that expands to the manufacture, storage and transport. And every negative impact it has a cumulative effect on the entire process, including the point of sale.
The problems in the cold chain tend to not be resolved because the majority does not endanger food security. Much more common is the continued lack of quality of fresh products described above, or the sale of pre-packaged products that actually weigh less than the amount you indicate. This is the day to day of inadequate management of cold chain.
The most common mistakes in the cold chain
Two are usually mistakes within the cold chain, involving energy efficiency throughout the supply chain and its profitability. First of all the errors that can occur when there is no appropriate processes of alerts in time on temperature differences, which translates into loss of product. The system, basically, cannot respond fast enough to notify the management of cold chain during the periods, prices cannot be reduced in time and products have just not sell it and are discarded. While the product is in perfect condition, a second type of error can occur due to the excellent temperature control, because that data system is not sufficiently sophisticated to enable that product upgrades according to the original expiration date. In practice, this also translates into a loss of profits, because although the products are in perfect condition, be they lowered selling below their real value.
Further promoting these errors, there is an inadequate management of the useful life of products. Many stores are not able to control the quality of the product correctly and rotate its stock, rejoining methods FIFO, the product that first enters, leaves first. Using identification systems appropriate for cold chain, such as RFID tags based on the temperature, combined with predictive models, ensure management according to the FEFO principles, the first expiring comes in first place, or LSFOof lower life comes first and reduce losses by waste significantly.
Wide variety of options
There are various technological solutions available to enhance the visibility of the cold chain, it is important to identify which one is the most appropriate to the logistical needs of the user in order to obtain the best results at the lowest possible cost. For the food industry, obviously the initial quality of perishable foodstuffs cannot improve the technology, but the loss of postharvest quality or production may be delayed significantly.
Experience has shown that the losses of quality of the product are cumulative and are dependent on multiple factors and their interactions. Therefore, the brief periods in the cold chain control, may give rise to a great reduction of the final quality of the product and its service life. And this can happen at any time, from its origin to the products set out in the store. Bearing in mind that the damage is cumulative, a small mistake can be considered as negligible if only, until that is valued as a whole.
Win time to market with the work directed by voice
Efficient and accurate preparation of products as possible is always a problem, but it is worse in the cold chain by issues of ergonomics and safety of the operator and its security. Many producers and suppliers of logistics, have put in place work directed by voice of Tenenet to reduce the time before and after production / handling and before the goods arrive at their destination in a way more quickly and safely. Now, with the latest devices and applications, voice-assisted there is the option to include additional hardware, such as a laptop screen with specific functions to display the selected product and make sure that it is in the right conditions. In addition, this technology has matured and the voice is now also accessible for small and medium-sized enterprises, with 'ready to use' applications as 3iV WES Express, which can be deployed in just a few days. This means that, even the smallest of the industry's products fresh, producers or 3PL, can benefit from the work directed by voice.
But the work directed by voice may not go so far as to optimize the cold chain, is not used to actively monitor the conditions of quality assurance. While it is technically possible, this not be commercially viable, due to the losses of productivity, that the coach should manually perform the quality control of the stock. Other technologies are better suited at this point as, for example, the use of smart tags.
Setting the example of a box of Strawberry, whose quality and shelf life is affected by the environment to the harvest, during storage and transport. There are two primary ways to control the temperature and therefore the effectiveness of the strawberries cold chain. One option is to use a method of sampling at random, with probes at designated points, to monitor the temperature of the product through the supply chain. This has disadvantages because controls are typically manual, labour-intensive that only provides information on a narrow point and at a particular time. Although it is also possible to use devices assisted by voice to control the quality, through random samples, however, the problem arises in the capacity of the systems integrator for the business logic, how to integrate the solution with a cost-effective way to existing warehouse management system.
A better approach for the temperature control is the use of active RFID technology, or smart tags, such as continuous of alarm temperature fluctuations or visual alert control if the values exceed the agreed limits. While this method is highly effective, the cost of the tag requires the use of reusable packaging. The adoption of this technology requires, therefore, that is recycled and a close collaboration between the external partners of the supply chain for the realignment of labels and the return of packaging for cleaning. But it offers additional benefits to who adopts it, because minimizing losses and provides continuous sampling methods. Labelling with active RFID introduces a higher level of responsibility in the supply chain, it is possible to identify exactly who has been involved in each party, in which conditions and where the impact occurred.
Another pragmatic solution is to use the electronic proof of delivery, ePOD ('electronic proof of delivery'), a system of widespread use. Hand devices can monitor the temperature of entry of goods within acceptable levels, in this way, it is possible to build beyond the quality controls and use this test to reject articles submitted to excessive temperature fluctuations andTherefore, probably with a reduced life expectancy. On the other hand, this information can be transmitted wirelessly to make calculations and revise the lifetime to guarantee a quick sale of committed products and ask for a discount or fine to the carrier.
With customers demanding ever higher quality is inevitable, and only a matter of time, the dialogue between all the partners in the cold chain and how these systems are applied. The benefits for all parties are clear, optimal management of inventories, customer satisfaction, avoid risk and the exchange of real-time data for the proper management of the cold chain.