Cold chain gets ‘smart’

The cold chain ecosystem plays an important role in providing end-to-end visibility, while data transparency and traceability also ensure product quality and process efficiency. CARGOTALK discusses transparency via AI & IoT in the cold chain industry and finds out if implementation cost is still a barrier to further business in India.

Kalpana Lohumi

Harpreet Singh Malhotra, Chairman & Managing Director, Tiger Logistics India and India Cargo Awards Winner 2019
Today, the IoT is changing the process of inventory, logistics, manufacturing, and more. Contextual intelligence provided by technology such as Intelligent Robotic Sorting, AI-powered visual inspection, etc. which are transforming warehouse management, shipping, tracking, logistics, packaging and so on. Supervised and unsupervised learning, and reinforcement learning technologies are facilitating real-time decision-making, enhanced fraud detection, predictive insights, etc. AI-led automation in the form of self-driving forklifts, automated sorting, self-managing intelligent inventory systems, autonomous/driverless ground vehicles, etc. are revolutionising warehousing, logistics, distribution, inventory management, etc. intelligent software solutions are enabling better supplier selection, product design, audits, evaluations, production planning, B2B sourcing, etc.
The implementation cost should not be worked as a barrier for IoT and AI. Internet-connected trackers use long-range networks or Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) to let companies track specific items throughout their delivery journeys. In the same vein, satellite trackers provide location data on an item almost anywhere on the planet, even in areas that do not have cellular coverage. Also, near-field communication (NFC) tags, based on RFID standards, allow workers to use their mobile devices as readers for the NFC tags, which provides an advantage over RFID tags and readers.

Vikash Mohan, CEO, DHL SmarTrucking India
IoT is already transforming the way logistics is done in India and is particularly important for the cold chain industry. Companies in sectors such as pharmaceutical, agriculture, dairy and confectionary, floriculture, quick-service restaurants, and processed foods, often face challenges in preserving the shelf life of their products and moving it swiftly and seamlessly across the supply chain, due to inadequate temperature management. Consequently, they require a high degree of transparency in the process, to ensure the integrity of their goods. IoT helps accomplish this through a connected ecosystem that facilitates smart monitoring and continuous communication.
Our trucks have IoT-enabled sensors that track shipments and monitor the temperature. The data is sent to a centralised control tower, providing real-time updates on the location of the shipments and its estimated arrival time on the system, allowing the operations team to take immediate action if irregularities arise and enhancing transparency in the shipment process for customers. The doors of the SmarTrucks are also monitored by sensors to ensure security. The implementation cost of these solutions has reduced since they were first developed. Sensor technology has become cost-efficient, and wireless connectivity is increasing, making current IoT networks cheaper to implement and maintain. This gives an opportunity for logistics companies to deploy IoT solutions at scale and
become future-ready.

Pankaj Mehta, Managing Director, Carrier Transicold, India & South Asia
IoT-powered cold chains not only help combat product loss but are also a proof of quality and compliance to various stakeholders. Everyone is now keen to learn the source and steps taken to ensure the safety and quality of the products they would be consuming. Businesses effectively use IoT to help translate data into meaningful actions using data analytics. In absence of cold chain technology, problems such as compromised and reduced shelf life of product have plagued the cold chain. Effective root cause analysis, corrective and preventive action, predictive analysis and faster resolution times are few of the many benefits of adopting IoT solutions for cold chain warehousing and logistics, which are enabled by data analysis. A cold chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and one way to enable an uninterrupted cold chain going forward is to turn to IoT solutions.

Sunil Kohli, Managing Director, Rahat Cargo
There is no doubt that incorporating IoT-based solutions requires ongoing cold chain transformations. Migration from outdated cooling containers to other shipping packages has become crucial to ensure better temperature control, real-time data monitoring, automated reporting, and predictive analytics. Apart from real-time asset tracking, the data obtained through the IoT-powered sensors allows stakeholders to better understand the risks involved, improve operational output and distribution schedules. This inevitably translates into high customer retention, as cold chain logistics becomes more streamlined and visible.
When IoT-based solution emerges, there is no need to check environmental conditions of cold storage manually. What is more, even goods freshness can be verified without human assistance. However, in my opinion, implementing both AI & IoT solutions seem to be still far away since the stakeholders engaged in the cold chain supply industry have been struggling with the financial issues at various stages. Hence, they may not like to enter in a new arena at this point of time.