Top five trends move the cold chain industry to the next level: capacity, last mile, and security become important

by Rene Tjong Tjin Tai, CEO, Dyzle

There is now a good deal of awareness of the need for proper cold chain management in the storage and transportation of temperature-sensitive products in the pharmaceutical and food industry. In particular, there is now increasing pressure on manufacturers and logistics providers alike to ensure that regulatory requirements are met, and safety or integrity of products is not compromised – especially so when the lives of patients are at stake.

According to market research firm TechNavio, the global cold chain market is set to grow at a CAGR of 15.75 percent and 10.53 percent in terms of revenue and volume, respectively, over the period 2014-2019.  If defines ‘cold chain’ as supply chain management that involves storage and transportation of temperature-sensitive goods, using thermal and refrigerated packaging methods to help with the transportation and storage of those goods, and utilizing extensive logistics planning to ensure the integrity of these goods.

In order to demonstrate integrity and comply with GDP (Good Distribution Practice) guidelines, there are both monitoring and reporting requirements in the cold chain. This is provided by a variety of means – including data loggers, temperature monitors, sensors, track and trace systems and so on. Much of this reporting is provided on a historical basis (ie: at the end of a journey or on delivery), but there is also a growing trend for real time monitoring, providing alerts when a parameter such as temperature has digressed beyond a safe range.

Good Distribution Practice (GDP) and Good Automated Manufacturing Practice (GAMP) guidelines also require mandatory reports in a standard format to demonstrate compliance. Systems are now available that automatically create these reports from real time data sent to the cloud (see image).

Dyzle 3 - ROI Computer screen_web

So what is next for the cold chain industry in 2015? Here is what we consider the top five trends to watch out for this year.

  • Creation of additional capacity and capability of handling for cold chain products; there is a shortage of both at warehouses as well as 3PLs (third party logistics providers)
  • Proper last mile delivery and storage; this is still an issue in many emerging economies that don’t have proper end to end cold chain infrastructure, and this also needs to include return of products.
  • In air / at sea temperature monitoring; temperatures can already be monitored in the air but cannot currently be transmitted in real time as the wireless radio connection has to be switched off in air.
  • GDP ‘like’ inspections by the regulators in the last-mile – for example, at pharmacies.
  • Maximizing the benefits of investments in serialization, security, GS1 and temperature monitoring by integrating solutions

The last point on this list of trends to watch out for in this year, serialization, is an important one in the battle against counterfeit drugs, and ensuring supply chain security. Legislation will come on board in a number of countries, forcing multinational companies to look at effective ways of coding individual products around the world, and enabling individual item level serialization. The ability to track and record each item’s movement across borders will mean pharmaceutical companies face new challenges and requirements, and have to implement serialization standards.

In summary, we are coming to a new phase in the cold chain industry, where issues like capacity, last mile delivery, and product security become as important as the capabilities that we are currently seeing to monitor the cold chain.

As cold chain logistics demands grow, technology becomes critical

Increased demand for generic pharmaceutical products and consumption of perishable foods in developing economies is going to drive significant growth in the cold chain logistics market in the next few years.  With this demand for better visibility of products in the logistics networks, to minimize wastage, and to ensure product integrity, technology that enables better monitoring and analytics in real time will play a major part in many cold chain logistics networks.

It is not just developing markets that are seeing growth in the cold chain.  North America is the largest market for the cold chain, according to Persistence Market Research. It says that increasing demand of daily products, vegetables and fruits, along with more exports of these products has boosted the cold chain market.

In the Asia-Pacific region, various government initiatives are also impacting the market – for example, the Indian government is opening mega food parks, which require temperature controlled vehicles and temperature-controlled warehouses. There, the government has also allowed 100 percent FDI (foreign direct investment) in the cold chain industry. The report also says that in Europe, Germany is one of the largest markets due to the increased consumption of frozen foods.

In terms of potential size in relation to the refrigerated storage and refrigerated transport part of the global cold chain market, it is expected to reach a value of US$ 233,476.7 million by 2019, at a CAGR of 15.6 percent from 2014 to 2019, according to Research and Markets. It also suggests that North America accounted for the largest share – 40 percent – of the cold chain market in 2013. The market is mature in regions such as North America and Europe due to the technologically advanced systems for refrigerated storage & refrigerated transport, the rise in demand for perishable foods, and government initiatives that encourage the export and import of these foods in these regions.

Healthcare logistics cold chain requirement grows too

Healthcare products such as vaccines and blood plasma products, frozen pharmaceuticals and insulin require specific temperatures to be maintained throughout storage and transportation.  The increased demand in developing economies for these and other pharmaceutical products has created a pressing need for temperature-sensitive healthcare transportation with the use of temperature tags on products.

Recognizing this, research firm TechNavio, says that the global healthcare cold chain logistics market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.31 percent from 2014-2019. In its report, it says increased investment in cost-effective technologies in developing markets, especially India, is motivating vendors to enter this region.

Technology becomes critical in enhancing and assuring product integrity

In order to meet these requirements, both in food and pharmaceuticals, there’s growing investment in healthcare infrastructure and technologies.  In the cold chain in particular, there is an emergence of transport vehicles equipped with event logging and electronic monitoring systems, to enhance the effectiveness of supply chain.

In fact, this will be a key area of discussion at the forthcoming Cool Chain & Controlled Room Temperature Logistics Conference in Frankfurt, Germany on 26-29 January 2015. Among the discussions planned for supply chain integrity, there will be a look at how temperature data can be used to improve and better control the cold chain.

It will also look at what to do with the data – how implementing a centralized global database can enable an overview of all excursions and provide complete insight into the cold chain, and overcoming fears of using ‘cloud’ storage.

This will be important as big data analytics becomes an integral part of many business processes in the coming years. The growing use of machine to machine (M2M) communications, which allows sensors to send real-time data via mobile and wireless communications networks, will generate lots of data – this data might be continuous readings of temperature or other key business critical parameters that need to be monitored.

Systems like Dyzle’s cold chain monitoring platform send the huge volumes of data generated by these sensors to secure storage in the cloud, which makes it accessible for real-time monitoring and for reporting. This data is often used both for historic recording processes, as well as to produce automated reports to demonstrate GDP compliance for example; in addition, it also helps to assure customers and consumers that the products are safe to use.

hardware - sensors

Wireless sensors like those shown here send data from temperature measurements to secure storage the cloud, making the information accessible for real-time monitoring and reporting

Technology such as this will therefore become critical in reporting key business performance indicators (KPIs), and will become an integral part of the logistics as well as business management process.

This will be especially significant as the volume of temperature-sensitive products that are shipped around the world grows; hence the demand for proper cold chain logistics with the ability to prove integrity with will become more important, since pharmaceutical companies will need the proof to be able to sell their products. The only way this can be solved is to have sensors and be able to make measurements, to handle lots of data, and to be able to record and interpret that data according to the market requirements.

Why data visualization is important for the cold chain

The proliferation of sensors to monitor almost anything and everything, plus the ability to store the information they collect in the ‘cloud’ is resulting in managers becoming inundated with data. Obviously the data is collected with a purpose – for example in the cold chain, sensors measure temperature and other critical variables so that management and operators know what is going on in the supply chain, to improve visibility, and to ensure the highest quality and safety as products move through the various parts of the logistics chain from warehouse to consumer.

With conventional data loggers, these measure temperature at pre-defined intervals and store that data for reading at a later point in time. However, with the increased use of real-time monitoring, not only do you have the ability to take corrective action almost as soon as a temperature excursion outside a pre-defined safe range takes place,  but you also end up with significant amounts of data being measured and stored.

So it’s no surprise that at the recent Big Data & Analytics for Pharma Summit in Philadelphia, USA, attendees were concerned about how to interpret the masses of data becoming available. Some of the observations were as follows:

“It doesn’t matter if your reports have all of the information.  If people can’t read and understand it it’s meaningless and you’ve wasted your time.  Busy executives need pictures that display patterns and insights.” George Koumakis, Roche

“Without the right framework for visualization, good data and actionable insights will slip away.” George Koumakis, Roche

“Tailor visualization for the business persona you’re serving and create actionable outcomes.” Sara Rottunda, Medtronic

These comments suggest that data visualization is important, and any tools that help to see it at a glance in a meaningful way for a particular business process or operation would certainly improve the ability of management and logistics operators to better understand and manage their operations. In addition, ‘actionable insights’ is also important, in that data should be presented in a way that makes it easy to take corrective actions if required. One such system might be a traffic light method (see picture), which can show the status of each element of the cold chain. In the picture, a red light means action needs to be taken.

Overview diagram connecting to cloud red-green signals

Alternatively, a map might show the status of any one of the fleet of trucks as well as warehouses or fixed locations, with a green, amber and red traffic light system to show the status of each point:

One view Europe map

It is not just about locations and status though. ‘Dashboards’ can be personalized so that the visual tool shows status of critical business process parameters, according to the key performance indicators of a business. The dashboard might even be tailored differently for different stakeholders.

For example, a CEO or a CFO might simply want a dashboard that indicates financial values of any potential loss that could result from a temperature excursion. On the other hand, the logistics manager might want to pinpoint the exact location of a truck or warehouse in the network to isolate it or take action (for example to instruct the driver to close the truck door). Or a QA manager might simply want reports just to prove to their customer that the product travelled safely throughout the distribution network.

While the data visualization assists the management process with tools like simple dashboards, it doesn’t take away from the fact that all the raw data is still available for integration into other systems – such as ERP, CRM and business intelligence. This supports wider information management systems within an organization.

Ultimately, data has now become abundant, and this is why sectors like the cold chain industry need good data visualization capability in order to quickly analyze the status within a logistics network, and take appropriate action as and when required.

A buyer’s guide to cold chain temperature monitoring systems

One of the great aspects of the modern world is that technology underpins everything, yet we don’t need to know anything about the technology. The majority of us would not know how the chips in our smartphones work, but we know how to make calls, take photos or browse the internet. What we usually look for is features that enable us to do the things we need in our daily lives – whether it is for taking photos, sending emails, internet usage or other capability; and then we look at features like battery life and size to see if it suits our needs.

Using this analogy, the main concern of the cold chain logistics industry is ensuring reliability, accuracy, and security. They need assurance that the products being shipped or stored, whether in the pharmaceutical or food industry, are maintained under the right conditions for them to be safe to use or consume when they reach the customer (see ‘How cold chain monitoring assures product safety’).

For the logistics manager, he needs to know where the products or shipments are and if there have been any temperature digressions so that immediate corrective action can be taken. For the quality manager, he needs to be re-assured that product quality has been maintained and have proof of product integrity. For the senior management team, whether they are CEO or CFO, they need to know the value of the shipment lost if there has been a digression, whether it is an isolated case, and where in their network of warehouses or the transport fleet the digression is occurring.

Ultimately, at the various levels of management in the cold chain logistics industry, they are looking for the temperature monitoring solution as a means to prove quality to their customer, and in turn enhance their relationships with customers and therefore enhance business.

What are the key factors to look for in a cold chain monitoring solution?

Many technologies are now available to monitor these various parameters of temperature, humidity, energy, location, and whether a door is open or closed.  There are RFID trackers, track and trace, cold chain monitoring, temperature monitoring, wireless monitoring and many more types of technology solution being offered to the cold chain logistics industry.

So how do you choose? Here are some of the obvious factors you should look for:

  • What parameters does it measure? Is it just temperature, or will it tell me about the humidity or whether a door is open or closed?
  • Can the sensors used in the system be used just in the entire logistics network – in the controlled room temperature warehouses, and in the fleet of trucks? Will this give me complete visibility in the entire cold chain, or are there gaps?
  • How does it send the information – is it via local wireless network, or a globally connected mobile network? If it uses mobile (GPRS or UMTS networks), then there would be global coverage.
  • Will it send me a real-time alert if the temperature rises above or falls below pre-defined temperature values that define the integrity of the product?
  • Can the system also use data from my legacy products – such as existing barcode scanners, RFID tags, ERP systems, so that I can get a complete picture of my cold chain?
  • Can the system overlay location data so that I can see the exact status of all my fleet and warehouses in one geographic map?
  • How is the data stored and can I have access to it at any time? If the data is continuously monitored and sent to the cloud for storage, then you know you will have access to it in case you need to provide full reporting history to your customers.
  • Do I need to provide any extra training to my operators? Ideally the system should provide automatic monitoring and data recording and reporting, removing the task of measuring from your operations staff, leaving them to get on with their main job function.
  • Does the recording and reporting of data fit into a GDP validated environment? This is important for GDP/GAMP regulatory requirements.

Solutions that address all of these factors can help to provide complete visibility in the cold chain and proof of product quality and integrity. Solutions that can address fundamental questions such as ‘what is the status of my shipment?’ and ‘where is my shipment?’, and help provide a rapid response upon failure by automated alerts (such as SMS, email, phone, as provided by Dyzle’s cold chain monitoring solution) are very much likely to meet your needs, if you are concerned about total product quality and integrity. The ability to see the whole system in one view on a map with all necessary details adds to the value of that system.

Overview of entire system

A hardware and software platform solution like Dyzle’s can provide the visualization of both fixed and mobile locations in a cold chain, and store the data in a centralized database in the cloud.

Automated registration and reporting, for proof of compliance with GDP, GAMP and HACCP requirements should then take away the additional task of manual recording and reporting that is often used by logistics and quality managers.

A hardware and software platform solution like Dyzle’s can provide the visualization of both fixed and mobile locations in a cold chain, and store the data in a centralized database in the cloud. This database can be enriched with cold chain data from other parties and sources; with the combined data, it is possible to create visibility and control of products throughout the cold chain.

An additional benefit of this temperature monitoring is that energy consumption can also be reduced or optimized. In a controlled room temperature environment, if the cooling equipment is observed to be running colder than necessary, this can be corrected to reduce the energy usage – a one degree Celsius increase can lead to a four percent reduction in energy consumption.

A final piece of the factors to look for is validation. A monitoring solution that fits seamlessly in a GDP validated environment (meaning the computerized system is validated), means that:

  • user requirements have been defined
  • risk assessment has been performed
  • system impact has been determined

Such validation is an integral part of Dyzle’s solution. The importance of this is that there is no need for additional training of internal resources, and no additional investment is required in validation expertise.  When product integrity is becoming increasingly essential, this capability in a cold chain monitoring solution is vital.

In fact, GDP compliance or GAMP takes care of most of the factors mentioned above for pharmaceutical companies. GAMP is a methodology that has asked all these questions according to the guidelines/standards for the pharmaceutical industry.  Technology solutions like the Dyzle hardware/software cloud-based platform ensure that by working in a validated environment, all these requirements are fulfilled – which means that logistics industry managers responsible for the cold chain do not need to know anything about the detail of the monitoring solutions, since the solution has already done all of that homework, in terms of risk analysis, IQ, OQ, etc.

In this article, we’ve looked at the key factors that one should consider when looking to implement a complete cold chain monitoring solution. As illustrated, it is not necessary to know about the technology platform – but it is important to know that they can do certain things, like measure data automatically, tell you the data in the right format, and help you provide proof of product integrity and compliance.

The Internet of Things is not a future vision: it’s already here in the cold chain

Everyone is talking about the “The Internet of Things”, or IoT.  To the uninitiated, this might sound like science fiction, depicting a world of smart and intelligent refrigerators, appliances, smart homes and ‘smart’ everything.  But what does the IoT actually mean for the cold chain industry? In this article, we’ll look at the reality of IoT in the food cold chain, and how it can and is already enhancing food safety.

The IoT has been evolving over many years, and you could say it goes as far back as the bar code was conceived in 1949; or to 1995 when Siemens introduced its first remote monitoring module for tracking and tracking applications (see ‘A very short history of the Internet of Things’). The IoT market has grown over the years, and despite the buzz and futuristic vision it may present, it is very much here already. According to market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), a transformation is underway that will see the worldwide market for IoT solutions grow from US$1.9 trillion in 2013 to US$7.1 trillion in 2020 (see announcement here).

For several years, Ericsson and Cisco have been forecasting that there will be about 50 billion connected devices by 2020, and now ZTE predicts that there will be 100 billion connected devices by 2020, of which 50 billion will be connected sensors making up the IoT.

IDC defines the Internet of Things as a network of networks of uniquely identifiable endpoints (or ‘things’) that communicate without human interaction using IP (internet protocol) connectivity – be it locally or globally.

In the food cold chain, the ‘things’ could be trucks or warehouses. The ‘IoT’ enables sensor networks to be deployed in all parts of the cold chain – in production, in shipping and in storage. Using a mobile connection, data from the sensors can be transferred in real-time to the cloud, where it can monitored and analyzed.

The benefit of such an IoT sensor network connected to the cloud is that it helps in monitoring parameters like temperature, humidity, and whether a door is open or closed. If there are temperature excursions, or a door is open, then the connected sensors in the trucks or in storage act as part of the IoT network to provide ‘real-time visibility’ of the status of the food products.

In the case of the platform available from Dyzle, the sensors are connected via a local wireless gateway to the mobile phone (GPRS or UMTS) network so that they can constantly send temperature and other data to a central data collection point or hub. In Dyzle’s platform, it is sent to the cloud (internet), and the data is interpreted and presented to the user in a ‘personal dashboard’ format that shows the parameters important for that customer.

Such a platform provides logistics managers, quality managers, and other responsible persons for the cold chain with the user interface that provides a visual display of key parameters, and provides real-time alerts. These alerts might warn a responsible person that the temperature of the shipment has exceeded a pre-defined safe temperature range, or that a door is open causing the temperature to rise above the safe temperature range for the food. By providing the alert, it is possible that corrective action, either manual or automated, can be taken instantly so that food safety can be ensured.

An additional benefit of an IoT system like Dyzle’s is that data is stored in the cloud, and therefore the system has the ability to provide automated compliance reporting of the entire history of the temperature and other parameters.

To demonstrate the latter, one food retail chain in Europe that uses Dyzle’s network has multiple outlets, and in order to provide proof of its compliance to HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) requirements, must record temperatures across its chain. This involves completing 28 pages of reports – which can be very time consuming.

However, with the Dyzle platform, the food retail chain is able to automatically register the data in the cloud (internet) for all its stores, since measurements are sent directly from the sensors in each outlet via the mobile network to the cloud. The data is recorded and stored in a pre-defined format as required by the compliance reporting procedure. This completely removes the burden of manually completing the paper records of temperature and other parameters.

This is just one example of IoT as applied to the food cold chain. As the example illustrates, the IoT is already here in the form of trucks and storage connected with sensors that provide monitoring of key cold chain parameters that must be monitored to maintain the safety of temperature-sensitive food products. The sensor network provides complete real-time visibility of the cold chain by constantly providing relevant data from all critical points in the supply chain. This in turn helps logistics and quality managers to assure their customers and management of the safety of their products.

The IoT is hence not a future vision, but is here and in use now. In the future, there will be even more connected networks monitoring all parts of the cold chain, which will generate significantly more data. The key issue then will not be about real-time monitoring, since that will be a given. The more important issue will be in analysing and interpreting the data, and ensuring traceability and compliance to provide assurance of food safety. This is the real future of IoT in the cold chain.

The importance of cold chain in healthcare, and how technology is enhancing patient safety

The recent investment of US$1.4 million by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in innovative refrigeration technology to bring a life-saving vaccine cooler to market is an important development. It shows that even if you give away expensive drugs for free to help save human lives, you still need to be able to guarantee that the drug will make an impact and not lose its effect.

Immunisation helps protect individuals and communities from infectious disease. However, to remain effective, vaccines need to be stored within the temperature range recommended by manufacturers – usually in the range +2˚C to +8˚C.  Incorrect storage of vaccines can be wasteful and costly, and can also reduce or nullify the potency of the vaccine.

Many healthcare delivery organisations that provide vaccinations have strict guidelines to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccines is maintained, and that all parts of the cold chain, including independent contractors:

  • ensure there is a relevant policy on safe storage of vaccines, including having a designated person responsible for receipt and storage of vaccines.
  • have procedures in place to assure themselves that that all relevant departments and providers adhere to the policy for vaccine cold chain storage
  • review storage temperature readings in a manner that will identify if vaccines have been stored correctly or encountered any temperature excursions outside manufacturers’ recommended temperature ranges before they are administered to patients
  • have procedures in place for remedial action in case of temperature excursions

The need for vaccine storage at correct temperatures demonstrates the importance of the cold chain in healthcare. Whether they are using vaccines or expensive medication that can deteriorate outside a manufacturer’s recommended temperature or humidity range, places like hospitals and healthcare service providers cannot do without refrigeration. From the point of view of ensuring patient safety, monitoring these facilities is extremely important, and being able to take remedial action in case of some failure is equally critical.

Many hospitals are utilizing technology platforms to provide actionable real-time monitoring and reporting. One example is a hospital in Nieuwegein/Utrecht, The Netherlands, which has more than forty cold stores and freezers distributed among its three campuses. The contents of these fridges and freezers are very expensive and if anything is lost, patient safety is put at risk. Quick action is therefore essential if temperature excursions occur.

The hospital equipped a total of 43 cold stores and freezers with a wireless monitoring solution (from Dyzle) for temperature and other parameters, and if anything goes wrong with a cold store, the personnel of the department in question are notified instantly with real-time email and text alerts. It provides operational staff 24-hours a day assurance, and instant indication of anything that goes wrong. If a door is ajar, for example, it can quickly be closed.

The hospital not only gets a real-time monitoring solution, but also reports of the vaccine’s temperature history presented in an easy-to-read format. The data stored on the cloud-based server is shown at the hospital as a dashboard via the Internet. If a cold store exceeds its temperature limits this is visible on the dashboard, and the person responsible at the hospital is notified by means of a text message, via email or by telephone. It enables immediate action to be taken.

Immediate action is particularly important in the case of stored human-derived materials like tissue, blood or viruses, which shouldn’t fluctuate too much. In another hospital wireless temperature sensors monitor the blood storage facilities, cold cases and freezers. From a patient safety point of view, it is absolutely unacceptable if temperatures fluctuate beyond specified temperature ranges.

Real-time measurement enables instant feedback and this is the difference between this type of solution and data loggers. Prior to the wireless sensors, the hospital would put data loggers in their cold cases and freezers and read them once a week. This never allowed the performance to be viewed in in real-time.

The monitoring of key parameters in the cold chain is just one part of the story. The other elements of the system include relevant reporting and analytics, and automatic provision of records for regulatory reporting purposes.

We are hearing a lot about machine-to-machine communications (M2M), big data, and the cloud. The solutions described above bring together all of this emerging technology into real world relevance for the cold chain in healthcare: wireless monitoring (M2M), reporting with appropriate dashboards (big data), and temperature history through the entire cold chain for regulatory requirements (via the cloud).

The impact of this combination on technology solutions to deliver a platform enabling full cold chain visibility to ensure product integrity in the pharmaceutical industry will be a key debate at the 12th Annual Cold Chain GDP & Temperature Management Logistics Global Forum in Boston (29th September 2014 – 3 October 2014), in which Dyzle in will demonstrate and discuss examples like the hospital examples given above.  There will be various discussions including a follow up to last year’s panel run by the CTO of Dyzle on the value real-time data, and how to integrate and interpret various sets of data to influence real-time decisions in temperature controlled logistics.

Plugging India into the global cold chain with effective monitoring, compliance and registration

India is a hot topic in the food industry currently, as a result of the EU imposing a ban on the import of mangoes from the country due to quality issues. India is one of the largest producers of mangoes, as well as items like milk, bananas, fruit and vegetables. It is also one of the largest global exporters of meat and poultry, and third largest producer of fish. Food isn’t the only sector with such impressive statistics – India is also the third largest pharmaceutical producer, at about eight percent of global production.

On the issue of the mangoes, one minister in the UK has said it was up to exporters in India to improve their processes and meet the criteria for export to the EU. He said that the key action resides with the exporters, in their ability to demonstrate that what they are exporting meets the criteria that the EU needs to have confidence in.

Given this need for the food and pharmaceutical industry to have confidence in it supplies, a good cold chain infrastructure becomes an important part of the process, especially if manufacturers and retailers want to assure their customers of product integrity as well as minimize waste of food and temperature-sensitive medicines. However, India’s cold chain market is highly fragmented, with a severe shortage of temperature controlled vehicles and cold storage facilities.

Analyst firm TechSci Research suggest the the cold chain logistics market in India is expected grow to around US$11.6 billion by 2017. According to a report published last November, the value of fruits, vegetables and grains wastage in India is around Indian Rupees 440 billion (around US$ 7.2 billion) annually, with fruits and vegetables accounting for the largest portion of that wastage at around India Rupees 133 billion (around US$2.2 billion).

This is where tools like Dyzle’s smartphone app can combined with temperature sensor probe can help in the ‘last mile’ of the cold chain, where a significant amount of wastage can occur. The probe measures the temperature of incoming goods or prepared meals. The app displays the temperature of the food or pharma product, indicates whether it is within the correct specified temperature range, displays critical values, and also indicates any corrective action that may need to be taken.

A further important aspect is that this is not just a standalone tool. By automatically integrated the collected data into the cloud and storing it in a portal, quality assurance departments or managers can easily access reports and details at any time. And since the data is stored in the same central database as the rest of the cold chain data, this enables full visibility of product integrity throughout the logistics network.

Dyzle will be demonstrating this app and sensor solution at this year’s Cold Chain India conference taking place in Hyderabad, India on 22-23 May. Chief Technology Officer Rene Tjong Tjin Tai, will also give a session at the conference outlining current temperature monitoring practice according to GDP, discussing what is available now, and how this will look in the future in the overall cold chain.

Last year, the discussion was around how to obtain better guarantees of product compliance, how to instil good distribution practice (GDP) more widely in India, and of cultural attitudes of labour workforce, especially with the last mile. There was a good balance of discussion around the issues in both the food and pharmaceutical industries.

The theme of this year’s Cold Chain India conference is around international trade regulations and effective compliance strategies to secure India’s position in the global pharma market. This will include sessions on the roles and responsibilities of logistics providers in effective handling, data monitoring, recoding and analysis. In terms of compliance with international trade regulations, this aspect, of the technology for monitoring in real-time and automatic registration, will also be an important debate at the conference.

Supply chain visibility is a key part of delivering proof of product integrity

Attend any major conference on the cold chain logistics industry, and you’ll see similar emerging topics for debate, for example around supply chain visibility, temperature monitoring and delivering proof of product integrity.

This is very apparent as we attend this year’s annual Cool Chain & Controlled Room Temperature Logistics Europe conference at the LuxExpo in Luxembourg. Session titles include, “Analysis of global logistics processes to reduce temperature excursions”, “Using temperature data improves supply chain performance”, “Effectively setting up and rolling out a standardised global temperature monitoring and data collection system” and “Supply chain visibility and continuous process improvement.

The importance of supply chain visibility has particularly grown, and in the broader debate in confidence in ERP systems to provide appropriate supply chain visibility, it is probably not being addressed that well – according to this article in Forbes magazine, “Building The Extended Supply Chain: If Only It was Like Legos”. This suggests that most companies are pouring money into ERP architectures believing that it can be as easy as connecting one ERP to their own ERP, but it is not as easy as that; today, only one out of four companies are confident that the ERP logic is equal to the task of delivering supply chain visibility to third-party logistics providers, contract manufacturers and first and second tier suppliers.

The debate is also around big data – and why it is important in the movement of temperature-sensitive products both in terms of visibility as well as the ability to take remedial action.  For example, the data can tell you instantly if something is wrong in the supply chain, if a temperature excursion has occurred. With relevant experience of knowing what to do with that data and how to interpret it, the supply chain manager is better informed. In addition to making available instantaneous real-time data, the data recording and analytics also enables the generation of relevant data for GDP and HACCP compliance reporting.

The other big trend for 2014 is the internet of things, or the connections of all kinds of devices and objects using radio connections. This is enabling machine to machine, or M2M, communications and allowing suppliers to the pharmaceutical and food industries to provide more data and monitoring and supply chain visibility, often in real time. Hence the announcement at the conference of the collaboration between KPN, the leading telecommunications and ICT service provider in the Netherlands, and Dyzle, which measures and analyzes business process data for the cold chain in real-time.

The two companies will offer an integrated platform for monitoring, tracking, and providing real-time data analytics and visualization for the food and pharmaceutical industries. They combine the M2M and RFID asset tracking solutions of one with the monitoring and analytics platform of the other to track the location of a product in a logistic chain and collect the environmental conditions data during its shipment.

The combination of these various trends indicates a growing need for one-stop shop application enablement platforms, which ease data extraction and normalization activities so that M2M applications and enterprise systems can easily consume machine data. In other words, not many firms want reams and reams of data, but they want a way in which this ‘big data’ can be interpreted to provide the key information relevant to their business processes. This could be in the form of flags, alerts or indicators that give them appropriate warnings or assurances within the supply chain. The tools and technology to enable this supply chain visibility in a turnkey way are now increasingly available, which then makes it possible to deliver customers and end-users proof that their products are safe.

How real time monitoring can improve food safety

Food is an essence of life and it is no surprise therefore that food safety and security are of major concern globally. In some countries, food wastage is commonplace because of issues in the supply chain. Even the World Bank has a Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) division, which holds an annual conference supported by over 70 countries, private companies, international organizations, trade associations, academic institutions, and non-governmental groups.

According to the GFSP, there is an ongoing world food safety problem that threatens every economy and food company, challenging governmental regulatory authorities, sickening millions of people each year, introducing barriers to trade, and hurting corporate bottom lines. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “We live in a world where confidence is a key pillar of the global food system – and consumer expectations for food safety are high.” Hence it is keen to see a global supply chain operate to ensure that food products are safe for consumption.

This is where technology can certainly help enhance food safety. In the USA, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) is encouraging its membership of 40,000 food retailers and 25,000 pharmacies to embrace traceability technology, since safeguarding the nation’s food safety is its number one priority. According to the institute’s vice president, “At FMI, we are working to help our members protect their customers and employees, meet all federal and state regulatory mandates, safeguard their brands, and reduce financial risk. Traceability is increasingly important to everyone in the food industry, and retail is no exception.”

One aspect of enabling confidence in the food supply chain that technology can help with is in temperature monitoring. By using wireless temperature sensors in cold chain transport and storage, it is possible using communications technology to obtain temperature data in real time. Dyzle has been providing the technology and the cloud based platform to the food industry for a while, to help monitor real-time data on the food and also enable energy saving.

An example of this is at Kruidenier Foodservices in the Netherlands, whose refrigeration units and cold storage trucks are fitted with remote sensors from Dyzle. These monitor the storage areas as well as core temperature of the products themselves. The temperature readings and precise locations of the cold storage trucks are transmitted via remote GPRS communication to a central point – the online personal dashboard – where they are all registered.

This ensures full traceability and customers can see whether the temperature of, say, dairy products has fallen under seven degrees during storage at the premises or during transport. The system provides perfect substantiation when it comes to the quality assurance that is so important to certification.

In this example, a by-product for the food company was in enabling energy savings. The remote monitoring allows them to keep a close eye on the energy consumption of all their cold stores. This parameter is also shown in the personal dashboard available via the cloud, indicating if the unit is working optimally, and allowing them to take corrective action if required.

The key to real-time monitoring of variables such as temperature and energy consumption is not just to gather data – that is probably the easy part as technology today is available to provide this. The more important part is in interpreting the data and providing real-time alerts in case excursions occur. This is where solutions like online personal dashboards with some ‘intelligence’ or expertise to analyze the data and present relevant information is really important.

This is an important benefit of Dyzle’s online platform – it is the result of customers’ inputs and the development team’s expertise built up over a decade, in understanding what data customers need from their cold chain and what that data means. While it is complex and fully scalable at the back-end, it is made extremely simple to use as far as the customer is concerned.

In the food industry, the ability to provide to use technology such as remote real-time temperature monitoring with some ‘intelligence’ to enable complete end-to-end visibility of the cold chain can go a long way towards meeting the agenda of ensuring confidence in food safety and security.

What’s the impact of big data in the cold chain?

Anywhere you look these days, people talk about big data. Whether you are in the technology industry, the retail industry, the supply chain and logistics industry, or any other industry, there is no doubt that big data plays a part. But what does big data actually mean for the cold chain industry? And how can we make sense of it, and can it be profitable?

Let’s put it into perspective first.  There are two global trends that feed into this specific trend in the supply chain and cold chain sector. First we have the ubiquity of mobile connections. And second, we have the ability to put all the data gathered from these mobile connections into the ‘cloud’ (in other words, in web based storage).

According to the global mobile industry association GSMA’s data, there were almost seven billion mobile SIM-enabled connections in 2012, of which three percent were classified as ‘M2M’ or machine to machine communications.  The number of SIM-enabled connections is expected to grow to around 9.8 billion connections in 2017, of which 13 percent would be M2M connections.

The M2M connection is the key part of the data gathering process in the supply chain industry.  This helps generate data on any parameter of a supply chain process – for example temperature, humidity, CO2 level, energy consumption and even whether a door is open or closed. The fact that this data can be transmitted via mobile means key processes can even be monitored in real time. And all the time it is doing this, it is generating more data – both current and historical as a shipment moves through the supply chain.

So in what ways is this data useful? The GSMA has given a good macro-economic perspective on one aspect of this.  For example it says that in developing countries, the use of fleet telematics to track trucks and monitor storage could save enough food to feed 40 million people annually!  This is equivalent to the entire population of Kenya.

Taking this down to company level, most executives in supply chain and logistics already think big data will have a significant impact on their company’s performance, according to the Executive Insight into Supply Chain Big Data in 2013 report (see infographic). These executives are looking at big data analytics because it will not only improve supply chain efficiency, but also reduce supply chain costs. They also believe it’s important to move towards real-time decision making as opposed to basing decisions on historical data. The greatest return on investment on using big data in the supply chain will be in visibility of the supply chain.

In Dyzle’s experience, the data is really important in the movement of temperature-sensitive products both in terms of visibility as well as the ability to take remedial action.  For example, the data can tell you instantly if something is wrong in the supply chain, if a temperature excursion has occurred. The data is analyzed, and experience of many such situations allows personal dashboards to be generated with relevant information for the supply chain manager, accessible in the cloud via mobile or internet, in order to provide real time visibility of what’s going on in the supply chain.

In addition to the instantaneous real-time data, the data recording and analytics also enables the generation of relevant data for GDP and HACCP compliance reporting. This allows supply chain managers to assure their customers that a product travelled within a specified temperature range and that the product integrity is therefore guaranteed. This is important in both the food and pharmaceutical industries.

These issues will be discussed at the roundtable entitled, “How to collect and still make sense of cold chain temperature data from multiple sources”, chaired by Rene Tjong Tjin Tai, CTO of Dyzle, at 13:25 hours on 3rd October 2013 at the 11th Annual Cold Chain GDP & Temperature Management Logistics Global Forum in Chicago.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.