Food Logistics September 2020

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SECTOR REPORT

SOFTWARE & TECHNOLOGY BY BRIELLE JAEKEL, ASSOCIATE EDITOR

SMART ASSETS MEANS

A SMART COLD CHAIN The Internet of Things in the cold chain may intimidate some, but the benefits can mean high return on investment in the future.

Smart assets can be controlled by mobile devices.

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s with all parts of the supply chain, the cold sector gets smarter as technology advances. Data, machine learning and artificial intelligence move the cold chain forward, but on the ground in the warehouse and logistics, smart assets physically move the product forward on a more advanced level. Today, pallets, conveyors and robotics all have sensors and technology embedded into the assets themselves, which helps those in the cold chain gain a firm grasp on the product’s status and more. But, the concept is more complicated than simply tracking a pallet. In the cold chain, it is more common to see a higher number of assets in the warehouse and the environmental factors that comes with keeping temperature-sensitive food safe

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complicate matters even more, among other elements. “High-efficiency cold chain operations lend themselves to be asset heavy when compared with traditional distribution and fulfillment,” says William Leet, senior product specialist for Honeywell Intelligrated. “Additional environmental design considerations, more equipment and system integration are required. To make matters more challenging, these complex systems need to be designed and crammed into a smaller footprint to limit energy wasted on climate-controlled dead space as well as bring down costs for installing long runs of conveyor. “As a result, these systems have more components in the critical path that upon failure, can cause considerable downtime to repair in a difficult-to-access space. The greater system efficiency and throughput certainly worth the risk and necessary to compete and meet

demand in cold chain markets. But, make no mistake, the risks of complex cold chain systems are higher,” adds Leet. “Take a motor failure on a third-floor sortation system; it takes two technicians, a spotter, fall protection, rigging and a scissor lift just to reach the motor. That scissor seems to always block a fork truck aisle and impede traffic necessary for other parts of the building. Depending on the downtime, you don’t just miss customer orders and the associated margin; you lose sellable product that spoil, adding [to] the cost of goods sold.” In addition to the constraints that the temperature factor presses upon smart assets, the intrinsic nature of connecting these devices for a seamless operation can also be daunting. “Putting the Internet of Things (IoT) to work and connected solutions to work in the supply chain requires the expertise to put the right data to work for practical, targeted insights—it’s not about just plastering facilities with sensors from dock to door,” says Dave Trice, vice president of business development for lifecycle performance services at MHS. “This requirement emphasizes the need for a strong maintenance partner, who has done their homework with asset modeling to establish thresholds for critical data points, which in turn drive actions based on data, such as service requirements. These targeted insights enable the most targeted, effective deployment of technicians to keep facilities moving as efficiently as possible.”

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