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Managing the Temperature-Controlled Supply Chain with Technology

Amanda Correa
by Amanda Correa on Dec 3, 2019 09:02:30 AM

New webinar discusses the current trends in the food supply chain space and the role that technology is playing in the modern-day cold chain. 

Food yard management system

The temperature-controlled supply chain or “cold chain” has always faced unique challenges. Today, new governmental regulations, increased scrutiny of food safety, and new business opportunities are all putting more pressure on shippers and logistics providers that operate in this sector. 

In the recent “Cold Chain’s Hot Innovations” webinar, Thermo King North America’s Scott Bates discussed improving energy and fuel efficiency (particularly in transportation), reducing food waste and extending shelf-life, assuring FSMA compliance; and promoting food safety. He also took out his crystal ball and gave webinar viewers a look at what lies ahead in these areas. 

Key Impacts to Watch

Bates kicked off the webinar by talking about the new and pending regulations of interest to cold chain shippers, with an emphasis on California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) proposed regulations for TRUs. Impacting owners of transport refrigeration units (TRUs) and that are operated in California, the new regulations apply to TRU emissions and various other items.

Walking webinar attendees through the challenges that fleets may encounter related to these new regulations, Bates highlighted how industry players can start to comply with CARB’s new laws. He also discussed future fleet technologies (e.g., electrification, solar starting, and solar charging), and how these innovations will enable more efficient transport of food.

“I think in the next 3-5 years we’ll see a significant transition towards enhanced electric and power management solutions in distribution,” said Bates, who then went into the various methods of controlling temperatures during transit, noting the important role that refrigerants play in the cold chain.  

Reducing Food Waste, Enhancing Shelf Life

In a world where cold chains are becoming increasingly complex, and where there are more hand-offs taking place along that cold chain, reducing food waste is becoming a bigger concern. “How can developing and developed countries reduce their food waste?” Bates asked. 

“Developing markets need more efficient and stable cold chains,” said Bates, “while more developed countries actually waste more food at the consumer stage. These are two separate problems that the industry has to address.”

In the developing markets, Bates said offsetting the food waste problem will require a capable cold chain, the right transportation, and logistics practices; and good temperature management that protects the food gets it to market and ensures that it’s saleable. 

The FSMA and Food Safety

Helping to promote food safety along the entire food supply chain, the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) impacts growers, manufacturers, and anyone else involved with the shipping of perishable goods. “Enforcement is not super-obvious, but making sure you’re compliant is just good practice,” said Bates, “and should be done anyway for your company, consumers, and other stakeholders.”

Bates said that the cold chain industry has largely absorbed both the FSMA and the Safe Transportation of Food Rules. “It seems like the best players in the industry were already basically doing what the regulations were asking of them,” said Bates, “so [FSMA] is something I think the industry, by and large, was able to take on and then manage effectively.”

Technology systems that manage security keep records use data to prove compliance and identify load-related issues are also helping cold chain shippers ensure food safety. These solutions provide “big picture” looks at workflows and individual links in the chain (and how they’re all working together). 

Is Tech the Ultimate Hero?

Bates said technology is becoming more commonplace in the cold chain, and that the traditional barriers to entry (cost, long implementation times, etc.) are lowering. “Companies are realizing the real value in technology and using it to offset other costs in their operations,” said Bates, “which proves that investing in software is worth it.”

Companies from the food and beverage value chain now realize that transportation delays and errors often take place not while trailers are on the road, but while the assets are still in the yards at distribution centers (DCs) and manufacturing plants. As all goods often go through multiple yards throughout the shipment lifecycle, any inefficiencies or errors in the yard are amplified as the effects propagate through the entire supply chain. The level of pain caused by a specific element depends on the nature and the size of the operations. For instance, delays can mean production downtime for manufacturing operations, product spoilage if handling perishable goods, lost opportunities caused by stock-out for retailers, or credibility issues with carriers and customers. 

PINC has the privilege to work with the largest food and beverage companies in the world. They have selected PINC Yard Management System for its ability to impact visibility, security, compliance, and efficiency of their cold chain operations as well as dry operations.  

For instance, PINC YMS records refrigerated trailer information, including temperature, fuel level, and operating status, while inside of a facility four fences. The system can be set up to alert operators to ensure regular checks are performed on all refrigerated trailers, and all critical information is timestamped and electronically recorded. The data can be automatically shared in real-time with other logistics systems via integration.

The real-time data, the ability to access historical information, and the seamless integration with other systems are critical components for our customers to succeed in improving energy and fuel efficiency (particularly in transportation), reducing food waste and extending shelf life, assuring FSMA compliance, and promoting food safety.

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Amanda Correa

Written by Amanda Correa

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