The fact that you are moving your goods in a temperature controlled reefer container or trailer usually indicates that they are of a higher value or at least greater risk of loss and also means that there is another factor in the equation that can result in their loss: their environment.
As well as theft, mishandling, or contamination, these goods have to be maintained within an acceptable temperature and possibly a humidity window for them to still be a saleable commodity at the end of their trip. So just what are the challenges with this?
Many reefers run at the extremes of their capabilities in order to maintain the set conditions of your freight. In hot and humid climates this is especially true. Failure of a refrigeration unit can mean a very limited window of opportunity for remedial action to prevent any losses.
All temperature controlled units will indicate what their temperature is and most will generate an alarm locally should that move beyond an acceptable range or the refrigeration shuts down for some reason. Some will even transmit this data to the carrier via a cellular link. But this is usually information sent to the carrier, what about you the owner of the freight, the company that will take the most pain if the goods are spoiled? What do you know about your freight in transit right now?
Currently most companies with temperature controlled freight deploy environmental data loggers. These devices typically sit inside the freight and measure various environmental parameters. The data from the devices is then downloaded at the end of the trip and you can see if there have been any anomalies en-route. These are a great way of protecting consumers from being sold products such as food or pharmaceuticals that may have been subjected to conditions that will cause them to deteriorate or be spoiled.
The problem is the damage has already happened, your goods are spoiled and you or your insurer will have to take a loss.
In the 21st century isn’t there a better way? Wouldn’t it be better to be notified if the environment in a shipment is approaching unacceptable levels and then before it is spoiled take remedial action? Thankfully now you can. Your shipment can now become part of the IoT, The Internet of Things.
A number of companies have developed environmental sensors that sample the environment in the reefer and should a set parameter be breached will generate and transmit a notification to the effect in real time. Two such companies are Guardfreight Worldwide Ltd and Sensitech.
Both companies offer environmental sensors that measure and report remotely set parameters, in the instance of the Guardfreight units multiple parameters with a single unit and indeed multiple units can be deployed in a single shipment. These devices then report via the cellular network that set parameters are either close to or have been breached.
You as the owner of the freight will receive these notifications, some companies offer a 3rd party monitoring solution, and immediate action can them be taken before the goods reach a critical point that will result in the need to condemn them. In the case of third party monitors they can take actions for you. They will be able to contact the carrier, probably in the language of that carrier, to get any problems rectified.
Reports of telemetry from these devices can also be downloaded so that hard copies of the exact environmental profile can be filed should there be any dispute.
Not only will you know when the environment of your shipment changed you will know where, as these devices also transmit their location. A useful tool if it is necessary to apportion blame on a third party for poor handling. Having up to date location information means you also know where your shipment is so that will give you an additional logistics advantage when used correctly.
Suppliers of these systems have even looked at the issues and logistics of handling the devices. They will often provide a per trip service, delivering monitoring units to the start location and providing recovery of the units at the destination. You no longer have to worry about deployment, collection and maintenance of the devices.
All these services can mean a real ROI for you company. Reduction in losses due to breaches of environmental conditions, more efficient logistics, reduced stock requirements and even the possibility of insurance reductions through discussions with your insurer.