Technology Innovations in Cold Chain Transport

Refrigerated transport plays a pivotal role in the movement of temperature-sensitive products across a cold supply chain. The lack of adequate cold chain transportation facilities results in enormous wastage of perishable products such as fruits, vegetables, milk & dairy, poultry, and medicinal drugs, among many others. According to data published by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries in 2016, India wastes a staggering INR 92,000 Crore worth of agricultural produce annually, primarily due to the lack of refrigerated transport and inadequate cold storage facilities. The post-harvest management of agricultural produce can be vastly improved through adequate cold storage logistics to prevent wastage and match up to ever-increasing consumer demand.

‘Reefer trucks’ have emerged as common transportation units used by cold chain logistics companies for movement of perishable goods by road. For instance, in the food cold chain – these trucks are used to move produce from a farm to a processing/packaging unit, and then to a storage/distribution center from where the processed food is transported to a wholesaler or retailer. Reefer trucks are equipped with an active refrigeration unit that is designed to maintain the temperature of loaded products within a specific range, and thereby keep them from spoiling during the transportation process. The refrigeration unit is typically powered by a diesel generator attached to the truck.

Today’s reefer trucks are compartmentalized vehicles, carrying different types of products, which require maintenance of different temperature levels. Besides maintaining the quality of products in transit, cold chain logistics companies are required to ensure that shipments are not tampered with, and the products are delivered safely to the receiver. Some of the key challenges faced by logistics companies during transportation through reefer trucks include:

  • The lack of documentation on product storage conditions (in-transit temperatures) that make it challenging to verify whether the product was transported in compliance with temperature requirements.
  • Lack of real-time visibility into temperature digressions within the reefer unit due to exposure to higher temperatures during loading, unloading and in-transit cross-dock operations. This could affect the shelf life of products being transported.
  • Risk of driver error when operating the reefer unit, or shutting down of the reefer unit to save fuel.
  • Inability to detect route deviations, unauthorized stops or door opens in real time, which could potentially result in theft of high-value shipments.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to revolutionize cold chain transport by providing cold chain freight owners real-time visibility, traceability and control over their shipments. The most notable innovations in refrigerated transport include GPS-enabled sensors that track the location and safety of a product in transit, and multiple BLE-based temperature and humidity sensors that track the quality of storage conditions, and make this data available to trucking companies in real time. This helps in detecting anomalies early on, so that remedial action can be taken in a timely manner. For instance, if the desired temperature or humidity requirements go out of range, or route deviations are detected, an alert is sent out to all concerned stakeholders for proactive action. IoT technology advances also allow for remote control of reefer temperature from any location at any time. part from sensors attached to individual items or products, the truck door can be equipped with a sensor to detect any unauthorized door open/close – and thereby mitigate the risk of theft by triggering an alert during such an event. In order to verify whether the products are transported in compliance with temperature requirements – independent, decoupled data loggers can be used to maintain temperature audit trails of products in transit.

Rane t4u Private Limited, a pioneer organization that designs and powers value ecosystems for the real world and enables digital transformation of businesses through the Internet of Things (IoT), helps cold chain logistics companies to overcome their operational challenges through these technology innovations. Through Rane t4u’s hardware and software solutions, reefer trucks will be able to continuously monitor shipments, and maintain the integrity of products in transit – thereby helping cold chain logistics providers mitigate operational challenges. In turn, industries that rely on cold chain transport will be able to cut down on wastage and drive significant bottom-line growth.

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