Telematics providing food shippers with better product visibility

by Canadian Shipper

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Producers and shippers of food products in the US are likely to be looking for increased visibility of their products as they are transported through the supply chain, when the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is fully implemented in the next couple of years.

What does this mean to refrigerated trucking companies? John Penizotto, executive director of business development with International Telematics, told a Technology & Maintenance Council audience this morning that shippers will be demanding their carriers employ the use of telematics, and that it’s a good idea to get ahead of the game.

There are three forms of telematics solutions currently available on the market, which provide insight into not only the location, but also the temperature of a product. They include: one-way, web-enabled; two-way, remote web-enabled; and probes/sensors.

One-way, web-enabled solutions allow a fleet or shipper to monitor the temperature and location of its product online. Two-way, web-enabled solutions allow the fleet manager or shipper to remotely adjust temperatures, change settings and turn a reefer on or off without physically touching the unit. These systems must be licensed by the manufacturer of the trailer refrigeration unit, since they tap into the refrigeration unit’s microprocessor. The third option includes probes and sensors, which can be installed inside a trailer or directly onto the product itself. These sensors can also monitor door openings and closings.

Two-way telematics systems are typically connected to the refrigeration unit’s microprocessor through a JBus connection. The user can perform a wide range of activities remotely, including initiating a defrost, selecting pre-set programs, or changing set points.

“Some have the ability to stop and start the reefer without having to touch it,” Penizotto said. “The newer the technology, the more options you will have to be able to control the reefer.”

Temperature probes can be wired or wireless, and attached to the trailer walls or directly onto the freight itself. Wireless probes are mated to a specific refrigeration unit by serial number, and can’t be swapped between trailers without reprogramming.

Hard-wired probes collect and store information that can then be downloaded into a Web-based program.

The benefits of all these solutions are that transporters and shippers gain “complete visibility and tracking through their chain of custody,” Penizotto explained. The systems also can store data onto a server where it’s available for a predetermined period of time and easily retrieved when needed.

“They key question to ask (of providers) is how long is that data stored?” Penizotto said.

The systems allow trucking companies to provide an enhanced service to their customers. Penizotto cited the example of geofencing, which can be used to send a report to a receiver the moment the truck pulls into a distribution centre, informing them of the temperature within the trailer before it even backs up to the loading dock to pick up product.

Trucking fleets benefit from wireless telematics as well, Penizotto said, since they save on tools and labour by not having to physically pull data from the refrigeration units when the trailers are in the yard.

The use of telematics moves fleets away from passive information collecting into a more active process. “With this technology, you’re getting real-time information as it happens,” Penizotto said.

When choosing a system, Penizotto said to consider integration with other dispatch, payroll and warehousing management systems.

“You’re going to want the technologies talking to each other,” he pointed out.

It’s also necessary to decide who has access to the information and how much information is collected.

Progressive fleets are already employing telematics. Penizotto said McDonald’s is one example of a customer that’s demanding greater visibility of its food products as they move through the supply chain. The company probes its products, providing 15-minute snapshots of its temperature and condition while on a truck.

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