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Cold supply chains are at the forefront of delivering important perishable goods, like our food. They're also responsible for disseminating pharmaceutical goods including COVID vaccines.
A cold chain is a supply line that needs refrigeration during production, storage, and distribution. It's supported by refrigeration equipment, which can maintain the quality of the goods being transported via a specified temperature.
An important part of the cold supply chain is monitoring, ensuring the temperature doesn't get too high or too low. This is where IoT-based sensors and tracking technology are vital. According to Supply Chain Dive in August 2020, “pharmaceutical companies lose US$34.1 billion annually, including lost product cost, replacement cost, and wasted logistics outlay" due to compromised goods.
“We know the speed of our vehicles because all of them have fleet management software built-in... and that's sending us data all the time. We know the temperature of the products or the temperature of the trail... and we know if the vehicle is going to make the delivery time because the vehicle is on our map." — Tim Moran, Regional Vice-President, Lineage Logistics
“...We're out there helping feed the world," explained Tim Moran. “...Historically, we've also worked with pharmaceuticals, which is a big topic today with COVID vaccines." Image credit: Lineage Logistics
So, what happens behind the doors of cold logistics? How do they manage clients, tight schedules, and complex routing? How do they know if goods are being kept at adequate temperatures?
HERE360 reached out to Tim Moran*, a Regional Vice-President in the UK for the world's largest refrigerated warehousing company Lineage Logistics. In this HERE360 feature, we accompany Moran through a day in the cold logistics industry, “minute-by-minute".
Lineage Logistics' Tim Moran explained: “While a vehicle is out doing a delivery, there's temperature monitoring on that vehicle all the time. And that data is being fed back to us in real-time..." Image credit: Lineage Logistics.
8:00am: Review the “diary of information" for goods going in and goods going out, which have been recorded by warehouse staff** and an automated system.
8:15am: Trucks “roll into the yard" and up to the loading docks. They're announced via an automated pre-notification system or a “...very traditional [system] where the driver gets out with his paperwork, comes into an office, and says, 'Hey, look, I'm here.'"
8:20am: Office notifies warehouse and/or loading bay staff “...of exactly what they're expecting to see on that vehicle."
“Within the warehouses... our science team might put a thousand temperature probes around the room or around the goods. Each one of those probes is... connected to the Internet of Things and that's sending information [about temperature and energy use] straight back to our data science team," clarified Tim Moran. Image credit: Lineage Logistics.
8:23am: Depending on electronic or paper communication, a delivery note is transposed and entered into the system.
8:27am: Vehicles start unloading fish, dairy, meat, or bakery goods, either automatically or manually, according to the initial type of process used. The product arrives in the cold storage warehouse by means of conveyor belts.
8:45am: Pallets of goods are automatically or manually scanned for barcode labels “so the system can recognize what the product is" and move it into cold storage.
8:47am: Products are probed for temperature and therefore, quality assurance, at the time of arrival and are placed in cold storage.
Every year Lineage Logistics handles 4.6 billion pounds of poultry, 4.4 billion pounds of potatoes, 1.6 billion pounds of nuts, and 2.3 billion pounds of dairy – in addition to billions of pounds of other perishable goods. Image credit: Lineage Logistics.
9:00am: Warehouse employees prepare goods that are leaving cold storage, to be delivered to a different or final destination ie, a grocery store or food distributor, via ground transportation.
Orders are “accepted" into the automated or manual system depending on the method the Lineage Logistics customer uses. “And we look for some details: Where do you want it to go? What day do you want it to go? What time do you want it to go?"
9:15am: Orders leaving the cold storage warehouse are given to the transportation planning division for loading, route scheduling, and execution of delivery.
“The reverse... then happens: the product comes out of the cold store and gets marshaled together, temperature-probed and put onto the vehicle. The vehicles are pulled off the dock, back doors are shut, and then it's ready for transportation," concluded Moran. Image credit: Lineage Logistics.
9:25am: Planners use route optimization software to schedule orders and deliveries across fourteen sites in the UK. They also use “satellite graphic room guidance" to group selected products, and trucks, together according to “load fill", location and ETAs.
10:00am: Once the selected products are set for a specified series of time ie, an eight-hour delivery day, the orders are sent back to the warehouse staff who are responsible for “picking the product out of the racks of the cold store, grouping it together and put it onto the vehicle."
10:15am: A driver is assigned to a delivery. The driver arrives for the shift and is given a “handheld device" that contains the routes, schedule, and electronic Proof of Delivery (POD) forms.
The device tracks the driver along the journey, sending status and completion updates, temperature checks, and other delivery data, back to the warehouse.
“...There's optimization software that's helping planners make routing choices and they're revising it all the time. And that helps us get the most efficient route out of our vehicles. Then once our vehicles are actually out there and all these PODs are being completed, we know what time [the drivers] should be at any place."
Lineage Logistics employs over 14,000 team members in the US, 17,000 in total across the globe. They support over 5,000 customers, including Fortune 100 big-box retailers, grocery stores, and family-owned businesses in all fifty states. Image credit: Lineage Logistics.
In Moran's words: “There's a huge amount of technology behind our business." Working with the industry's only data scientist team, Lineage Logistics uses data taken from IoT-connected temperature probes to keep food cold but also, to gain insight into how to best use their buildings, attain fuel and distribution efficiency and maintain sustainability. As Moran reminds us: “We have to be responsible citizens as well and make sure energy usage and carbon emissions are kept to a minimum."
Lineage Logistics was recognized in 2019 and 2020 by the US Department of Energy (DOE) for innovations in energy efficiency, thanks to their use of ground-breaking tech.
“When we start to use data science to help us maximize the ability to [deliver goods], we're doing the right thing for the future... the right thing for energy and the environment, but also for making food available and affordable by being responsible in how we move products." – Tim Moran, Regional Vice-President, Lineage Logistics
HERE Supply Chain can optimize the most complex of logistics needs. Find out how.
*Tim Moran was interviewed on February 22nd, 2021, via an online call. All quotes by Tim Moran unless otherwise stated.
**Lineage Logistics employees, who have been designated as essential workers throughout the pandemic, work around-the-clock to deliver temperature-controlled food to the world.