Internet of Things – The Role of Pallets in New Food Scanning Technology
04 Jun 2015
Today, most products have a long and complex supply chain. Whether you are thinking about electronics or vehicles made of components built in several different countries or food and beverage products that are grown in one area, processed in another then shipped to another continent, the issue remains the same. Products are travelling a long way to reach consumers, and a lot of things can go wrong along the way.
Maintaining Quality in Transport
Maintaining the quality of fresh goods as they move through the supply chain is a particularly difficult challenge. One recent high-profile case saw an outbreak of hepatitis A in Australia from frozen berries, posing questions about how well foods are monitored when they are being shipped abroad, and whether current food storage and labelling standards are up to scratch.
According to a Defra study conducted by Faer Maunesll, domestic food transport in the UK costs £1,877m in terms of accidents, CO2 output, air-quality problems and other issues. If suppliers could make the transport chain more efficient, many of those costs could be reduced.
Another recent study, conducted by Forrester Consulting in 2014, suggests that the Internet of Things (IoT) could make a significant contribution to efficiency improvements and help to streamline the food supply chain, as well as reduce waste. Perhaps one of the most interesting contributions that the IoT could make to the food industry would be in the form of bar-coding, tracking tools and scanning technology.
Automating the Warehouse
Through the use of warehouse management systems and automation tools, companies can enjoy significant productivity improvements. For example, they can track returnable pallets – saving producers money and also giving them an idea of when their products have been returned. Management systems can ensure that the oldest deliveries are sent out first to maintain the freshness of produce, and also provide an easy way of telling how products should be stacked to ensure that they are processed when still fresh. Lots with problems can be highlighted easily to deliver improved quality control.
Tracking for High-Quality Products
Tracking technology is ideal not just for the automation of major warehouses but for smaller companies too. For example, the coffee industry in emerging markets is currently divided into “commodity coffee” and “speciality coffee”, and many smaller growers are missing out on a chance to get into the speciality market because mills purchase coffee from multiple growers but have no way of tracking where each lot came from. This means that they cannot sell that coffee on for speciality prices because there is no proof of its origin.
The right technology will ensure that power is given to both the supplier and the buyer and that everyone knows the status of their goods at all times, meaning there will be less waste (so fewer wasted journeys), better quality and, hopefully, fairer prices for all.