September 2017 | Commentary | IT Matters

From Nervous to Chill: Unlocking IoT's Value Across the Cold Chain

Tags: Logistics I.T., Temperature-Sensitive Goods, Food Logistics, Technology

Jeff Brown is Vice President, Global IoT and Embedded PC Sales, Dell EMC OEM Solutions, 512-338-4400

One-third of the world's food goes to waste, with most of the losses coming from spoilage on its way to being consumed. Much of the waste is due to lack of proper refrigeration. Broadening and improving cold chain efficiency would extend shelf life and increase the supply of perishable foods such as meat, fruits, vegetables, and dairy.

In order to deliver high-quality products at the right value, the ability to control the cold chain and the cost of delivery is vital. Keep in mind: The average piece of produce in the United States travels 1,500 miles from its source.

The cold chain not only presents the opportunity to apply Internet of Things (IoT) solutions at the food production, storage, distribution, and retail stages, but also the potential to combine that data to strategically leverage the IoT and deliver considerable business value.

Four Key Steps

Here are four key steps to implementing the IoT across the cold chain.

  1. Spot efficiency opportunities. They exist in many areas, including:
    • Food processing. IoT can let companies recognize any differentiations in tolerance throughout the process and highlight quality assurance risks.
    • Distribution trucks. Access to real-time temperature data, run-time capacity, telemetry data, and geographic locations lets companies take action if something goes wrong.
    • Cold storage. An integrated data system that balances cooling demand based on the volumes and distribution profile of the produce, matched with onsite generation capacity and the energy pricing market, can decrease expenses and boost revenue.
    • Food retail site. Access to real-time data on temperature, merchandising, compliance, and asset health and efficiency can ensure that the refrigeration regime matches the product.
  2. Determine available data. Ascertain the size of the data that you have access to, and isolate areas where some investment in sensor-driven infrastructure would be advantageous and cost effective. Next, assess the depth of interactive capability that your company needs from the IoT system. 

    In addition, determine the data you would like to collect, whether it's incremental performance analysis or purely exception handling types of data. This information will then dictate the nature of the IoT solutions architecture, from remote or on-site processing capacity and memory using an IoT gateway, or a setup where data can be ported to a central or cloud location directly.
  3. Provide context for IoT information. Applying rules across your data gives thresholds for severity management, and the opportunity for scoring risk. This will give your company a clear understanding of the real-time produce risk within the product flow, and the ability to make fast decisions about how to mitigate those risks and minimize the impact of food and margin loss.
  4. Automate workflow management. Set policies that ensure the IoT layer can execute required actions directly with the machine as well as inform central systems and report on outcome.

IoT presents a range of opportunities for cold chain logistics to gain efficiencies. By harnessing IoT throughout the supply chain, organizations can see significant process improvements.






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