As cargo vehicles carrying perishable goods are set to make their journey by intermodal rail and road from China to the Middle East and Europe, via the New Silk Road, what was once a 40-45 day journey via sea freight will be cut down to 16-18 days. While the direct impact on the number of days may prove to be a valid success for all involved industries, this new way forward does come with its own set of challenges. The route spreads its expanse through parts of China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany, enduring some very extreme weather conditions with a drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius in the winter, as well as harsh terrain – an environment that proves to be far from ideal for perishable goods.
Through the advent of telematics however, logistics companies are able to combat these hurdles as they track exactly where specific cargo transportation vehicles are on their journey; and gain access to live data to examine temperatures inside containers, and requirements for engine, truck or rail maintenance – ensuring technicians are available at the next stop.
Track and trace technology is now at the core of successful implementation of food cargo transportation from producer to consumer. The access to live data through sensors, software, equipment and modern IoT devices has a valuable role to play in improving product allocation and maintenance, reducing waste and loss as well as ensuring product safety and quality compliance.
For example, the immediate identification of a shift in temperature or humidity, correlating to a non-conducive atmosphere for specific refrigerated food items allows for real time intervention. The shift at hand could be a result of problems ranging from machine malfunction, incorrect refrigerator settings or human error of doors being left open for too long during the process of loading and unloading – real time identification of the problem allows for solution implementation, resulting in reduced damaged goods and loss. Track and trace technology also allows variants to be controlled from a remote system, ensuring more flexibility of intervention over the physical environment of products.
IoT devices and sensors have the potential to play an integral role in ensuring supply chain visibility. They are proving to be especially beneficial as the world of food e-commerce continues to exponentially increase consumer expenditure on home delivery services; and the nature of higher expectations of service ranging from greater visibility of safety and sustainability rises in demand. Companies interlinked to food supply chains and perishable goods recognize this value of track and trace technology and full supply chain visibility. However, one of the biggest challenges that stand in the way is funding, and changes to general business processes.
Track and Trace Technology Obstacles
Prolonged battery life is necessary for sensors and other IoT devices to ensure uninterrupted and continued use through remote locations. An effort in this direction comes from vendors who are producing smaller devices and rechargeable batteries, and are investing in the use of solar power and energy harvesting, cutting out the need for frequent battery replacements.
Another obstacle for this technology and supply chain management proves to be interoperability issues revolving around common standards for connectivity and data exchange when it comes to proprietary operating systems. The convergence of more refined interoperability through cloud-based platforms that support a range of IoT devices and sensors has been found to be a welcome solution. These platforms enable data collection and aggregation across a wide spectrum of IoT devices, systems and sensors – creating a common platform among them all.
The Way Forward
If you’re considering developing track and trace and supply chain visibility you should begin with a feasibility study - before the implementation of any new technology, performing a feasibility study is a crucial place to start. This will help you identify and evaluate current systems that are already in place, and allow an investigation into their durability and whether they need a simple upgrade or a new replacement altogether.
Recently, track and trace solutions have been seen to be more affordable and easy to adopt than ever before. Developing end to end traceability and monitoring is now possible with our Wide Angle Visibility system. We work with our clients to implement a proof of concept on a portion of their supply chains to demonstrate the value and insights that can be gained from Wide Angle Visibility, before implementing it across the entire supply chain.