Hot Tech for the Cold Chain

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June 6, 2019

The cold chain industry is also growing rapidly—the market size of the global cold chain was valued at $167.99 billion in 2018 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 15.1% by 2025. This growth is fueled by the expansion of connected devices and automation within the industry, increased demand for perishable food products, the ongoing trend of purchasing these products online and the rising expectations consumers have for faster-than-ever delivery.1

What is cold chain and cold chain logistics?

The “cold chain”, or specifically a temperature-controlled supply chain, includes refrigerated production, storage and distribution. And not only does it require specialized equipment such as temperature-controlled trailers to function, cold chain also relies on a series of refrigerated activities to constantly keep products at the correct low-temperature range,  making it a complicated industry for shippers and trucking companies alike.

Demands and expectations faced by cold chain providers

This host of demands is putting the heat on cold chain logistics providers and distributors to promote efficiency, speed delivery and ensure product integrity. Rising consumer expectations for fresher, healthier food means decreased processing, shorter shelf life and increased temperature sensitivity. Many pharmaceutical and biotechnology products now involve more high-value, active ingredients with shorter shelf lives and a wider range of controlled temperature requirements, and they’re shipped longer distances2. This environment not only requires more transporting versatility and vigilance to promte quality and safety—it also substantially increases the cost of a ruined shipment.

At the same time, cold chain operators face the same challenges confronting the supply chain as a whole, including truck driver and capacity shortages, and want to place an increased emphasis on meeting sustainability goals. These challenges can have a particularly big impact on a refrigerated fleet, which requires capital-intensive investment, specially trained drivers and substantial energy consumption, and involves increased liability and heightened inspection risk.

Integrated GPS asset tracking technology for trailers can help cold chain logistics providers and distributors tackle these challenges head-on. By providing near-real time visibility for trailers and other assets, near-real time monitoring of temperature and other key metrics, and on-demand communication with truck drivers, asset tracking solutions boost cold chain efficiency, delivery speed and product safety for the long haul.

How GPS supports cold chain management

By quickly and easily installing small, mountable GPS sensors, it’s possible to seamlessly monitor and track trailers and other assets critical to cold chain operations via a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Here are five ways these solutions deliver temperature-sensitive products where they need to go, safely and efficiently:

1. Gain better visibility. The cornerstone of cold chain management efficiency is information. First and foremost, you need to know where your trailers and other assets are and where they’ve been. An asset tracking solution gives you full asset visibility in near real-time, including location, current status and usage history.

Whether you have dozens, hundreds or thousands of powered or non-powered assets of various makes, models and manufacturers, you can track them on a single web-based dashboard that consolidates data, clusters multiple assets and offers fast searching or tag filtering.

That means you can easily locate the closest available trailer for the right job. Equally critical for cold chain, you can track trailers through the crucial last mile of delivery route, and verify that there’s space on the receiving dock to stage and load products in an appropriate temperature-controlled environment.

Learn how to decide which asset tracking solution is the best fit for your business with our Buyer's Guide.

2. Monitor trailer temperature and status. Asset tracking is more than knowing where your trailers are—it’s knowing how they’re doing on a broad range of key indicators. Using status updates and automated alerts, fleet managers can monitor temperature data, reefer status, door closure and movement, excessive vibration, intrusion and more. With these near-real time metrics, you can be confident the temperature-sensitive food and healthcare products you’re transporting remain at the proper temperatures every leg of their trip. In cases where temperatures move out of safe ranges, you can take immediate action. You also have increased ability to remediate other related issues that may arise, helping to prevent or mitigate financial loss.

In addition, remote temperature monitoring and control allows you to improve fuel utilization. It also reduces the likelihood that drivers will turn off the reefer to save fuel, thus decreasing spoilage and losses.

3. Understand and improve utilization. Asset tracking software can give you a big-picture understanding of how often your trailers and other assets are being used—or sitting idle—across geographic locations. The ability to identify equipment with low ROI helps you make informed decisions about renting or selling underperforming assets or whether you should deploy them elsewhere. Utilization software can also use precise metrics to determine how often and how long a trailer or other cold chain equipment ran during a certain day or time period.

4. Set geofence notification alerts. Tracking solutions enable you to automate geofence alerts when a shipment nears your customer’s loading dock. When a trailer is delivered, you can ensure that the cargo is unloaded quickly and moved to its next temperature-controlled location, maintaining product safety and integrity. You can also create a virtual perimeter for added security around trailers or cargo that triggers an alert when they move from an approved location.

5. Improve communication with your drivers. GPS fleet tracking eliminates the need to play phone tag with your drivers. You can be in touch any time, helping them find the fastest route, reducing unnecessary or unauthorized stops and increasing accountability for their cargo. You can also monitor driver behavior, such as harsh braking, excessive acceleration and speeding, which can pose a danger to drivers and others, as well as add costly wear and tear to equipment.

6. Proactively manage maintenance and inspections. Set automated alerts for necessary maintenance and inspections, helping you to comply with all regulations and improve equipment safety, as well as helping to prevent costly breakdowns, and extend the life of your assets and preserve their value.

Cold chain management system features to look for

Make sure to select an intuitive, comprehensive solution that matches your cold chain delivery needs and helps you deliver the speed and efficiency your customers demand. Features to look for include:

  • Durability. Rugged GPS location units should be built to work in a range of cold and harsh environments and should be moisture and dust resistant.
  • Long-lasting battery life. Self-powered asset trackers are available with a battery life of up to four years. A variety of AC and DC options are also available.
  • Flexibility. Your needs will determine what you want to monitor and how often.
  • Reliability. To ensure you can track your assets outside your 3G/4G cellular network, opt for a GPRS cellular network, satellite coverage or combination.

Sources

1 https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/cold-chain-market

2 https://www.outsourcing-pharma.com/Headlines/Promotional-Features/Temperature-controlled-pharmaceutical-logistics

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