IoT & the Cold Storage Market
About 17% of the world’s food production is wasted every year, according to the UN Environment Programme’s Food Waste Index Report 2021. This includes millions of tons of perishable food items that have spoiled due to improper refrigeration. In addition to the financial loss, spoiled foods can sicken consumers and damage brand reputation. Proper refrigeration is required for other temperature-sensitive products as well, such as medicines. Vaccines, for example, lose their effectiveness when they are outside their optimum temperature range for even a short amount of time—in fact, 25% of vaccines are degraded by the time they arrive at their final destination.
Research firm MarketsandMarkets predicts that the global frozen food market will increase from a value of $244 billion in 2020 to $312 billion by 2025—driven largely by an increase in online shopping for food. With the rapid growth of frozen-food markets, supply chain delays, and more players entering the cold storage market, cold storage distributors must improve productivity and efficiency to handle increased volume in their existing refrigerated warehouse facilities.
To stay competitive, cold storage distributors face three key challenges:
- Maintain exact temperature requirements for different products/zones within a distribution center
- Ensure compliance with federal and state regulatory standards and customer contracts
- Trace product locations and movements within the supply chain or distribution center
The Internet of Things (IoT), through a combination of sensor technologies, data analytics, automation, cloud-based software platforms, and 24/7 monitoring, can identify temperature variations within a cold storage facility and alert staff immediately so the situation can be fixed before it becomes a major problem. In fact, an IoT-based environmental monitoring system can be programmed to monitor, control, and maintain appropriate temperatures for perishable products through all parts of the supply chain. Scannable barcodes or RFID tags can also upload information to a cloud-based blockchain system for location and data tracking. Alerts are transmitted immediately to key staff when the monitoring and notification system detects potentially harmful changes in temperature, relative humidity, CO2 concentrations, and light intensity. Dashboards can be accessed by cell phone 24/7 to determine the location of the variance and take corrective action.
Benefits of IoT-Enabled Cold Storage
“Implementation of a cold storage temperature monitoring solution is helpful for climate-sensitive perishable items,” states Software Solutions, a provider of IoT solutions and data solutions for a variety of industries, including food and beverage. “A smart warehouse solution is easy to incorporate, convenient to use, and ensures that the quality of goods does not degrade in warehouse and shipping.”
Benefits of an IoT-enabled cold storage management system include:
Product quality. Temperatures are monitored and adjusted as needed, in real time, which greatly improve the quality, safety, and longevity of the refrigerated products.
Real-time monitoring. Monitoring key parameters in real time identifies variances when they change from their preset values; correcting these immediately minimizes product losses.
Audit trails. IoT-based data capture, storage, and analytics provides the documentation required to satisfy regulatory audits, customer questions, or to expedite recall investigations, if needed.
Alerts and warnings. A “smart” monitoring and tracking system lets staff know immediately, 24/7, when a temperature variance occurs (allowing immediate corrective action) or when expiration dates are about to expire.
Stock management. A smart cold storage management system informs managers where the empty spaces are within a cold-storage warehouse for more effective stocking of product, thereby increasing capacity and throughput.
Energy efficiency. Precise temperature controls and temperature adjustments to maintain strict temperature ranges (especially for products in different zones in the warehouse) can reduce overall energy costs.
Brand management. A good track record of food safety, on-time delivery, and effective energy-management practices increase brand loyalty by showing customers their foods are safe and sustainable.
Smart Cold Storage Operations in 2022
Like most industries during the COVID-19 pandemic, cold storage companies are embracing Industry 4.0 and IoT technologies to maximize the safety of their products, the capacity of their distribution centers, and the agility of their supply chains.
“Quality of products is at the top of the priority list when it comes to distribution centers,” says Rodney Carpenter, vice president, distribution and commercial market, Gray. “Smart warehouse solutions check both of those boxes and more. These systems are easy to use and incorporate and ensure maximum efficiency.”
A growing number of products—agriculture, food, restaurants, healthcare, and pharma—require accurate and stable temperature controls during shipping, storage, and distribution to assure product safety and quality.
Overall, the implementation of an IoT-based cold storage monitoring system protects product quality and leads to the optimum utilization of space and resources. “This is why so many of our customers are relying on smart solutions for their cold storage needs,” adds Carpenter. “IoT-based monitoring solutions create immeasurable benefits for businesses and, in turn, are great for consumers.”
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.
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