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Emerging Technology for Cold Chain Regulatory Challenges

  • June 13, 2018
  • Jeffrey Newman
  • Reading Time: 3 minutes
Emerging Technology for Cold Chains

Cool and cold chain management have their own layer of complexity on top of regular logistics. One focus area is quality management, which seeks to monitor and reduce freight spoilage during transit. There are also more regulations and good practices due to food safety and life sciences integrity concerns. Even indirect rules from other government agencies add other challenges when shipping sensitive cargo. As a result, monitoring environmental conditions and staying in compliance often require labor-intensive processes and reporting requirements. Emerging IoT technology helps streamline operations while providing more shipment information between origin and destination than previous market solutions.

Regulatory Challenges

Let’s review three federal regulations that affect cold chains directly and indirectly. The purpose of the two FDA rules is to ensure food safety from farm to consumer. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a management system that addresses food safety by controlling hazards from production to consumption. The focus is on dairy, juices and seafood as well as the retail and food service environments. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) established standards for practices related to food safety prevention.

Related to both regulations is the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule. Its purpose is to reduce the risk of contamination from improper food refrigeration, inadequate cleaning between loads and a general failure to protect the food. It applies to transport of goods by rail or motor vehicle and requires that certain records be maintained for up to 12 months. Transportation operators “must take effective measures to ensure that food that requires temperature control for safety is transported under adequate temperature control.”

The FMCSA’s Electronic Logging Device mandate (ELD) has an indirect effect on cold chain management. The electronic recording of truck drivers’ hours of service means there is no wiggle room to drive a little longer to get a perishable shipment to its destination. Monitoring environmental conditions during a trailer transfer or an offload to another reefer becomes important to maintaining shipment quality and compliance. Of course, there are industry good-practice guidelines, along with state and local rules that may require additional adherence and reporting.

Monitoring Challenges

In the past, it was difficult to monitor conditions when shipments were in route. The driver would check the reefer’s thermometer at origin, during stops and when reaching the destination. However, any fluctuation in temperature, humidity, light, etc. wouldn’t be known unless it occurred during a driver check. With the introduction of RFID sensors and data loggers, information is recorded during transit; however, the devices are unable to transmit the data. It is downloaded after being retrieved at the destination. Knowing of a breach after accessing the data is good for ensuring integrity checks before any product reaches the consumer; however, it doesn’t help managers, quality or supply chain, troubleshoot any issue before the shipment is damaged or lost.

Emerging technology in industrial IoT is changing the way we track environmental conditions. The new, smarter solutions offer:

  • Remote location and environmental condition data logging continuously from origin to destination
  • Automated data transmission to cloud-based software for easy access anywhere
  • Alert notifications of changes in temperature, humidity, vibration, light, movement and drops, including duration of environmental breaches

How does it work? The smart sensors continuously log the data and, when paired with a telematics gateway, transmit the information to cloud-based software. As a result, cold chain and quality assurance managers have access to real-time information from anywhere, as can shippers and carriers. Even with the volume of data being streamed, the full-stack solution allows you to define out-of-compliance parameters so alert notifications are sent when a condition goes above or falls below. Awareness of potential breaches during transit, including duration, means the issue could be fixed before there is damage or loss.

Another technology benefit, whether old or new, is the replacement of manual, paper-based systems. The compliance data is available now or for reports. It is also easily accessible for retrieval upon request within the 24-hour mandated timeframe.

If you are interested in learning more about CalAmp’s supply chain solutions, visit our page here. Meet with us in person! CalAmp is going to FreshTEC 2018, part of the United Fresh show, and will be at booth #2615 on June 26-27th in Chicago.

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