Technology is the future

Embracing connected technology and attitude changes are key to cold chain evolution, says Jack Morris, channel partner manager at Masternaut.

London, UK: The cold chain transportation industry is approaching a tipping point. Technology is improving, social attitudes are evolving, and more and more businesses are waking up to the idea that full connectivity is key when it comes to improving fleet efficiency.

It’s by embracing this technology that the temperature-controlled transport industry will best adapt to likely future challenges, such as regulation changes or a shift in demand.

Even within the last decade, technology has advanced considerably. More information is available than ever before. Some transport companies are already taking advantage, but within the cold chain industry it’s still typical to have separate systems for monitoring temperature and collecting telematics data.

This is sure to change in coming years: a fully connected solution not only streamlines a business but also gives data more context and power, making it easier to identify areas of operational improvement.

The ability to analyse this data in real time is likely to become a key factor in cold chain success. Detailed temperature readings, while still vital, only form part of the picture. Geo-analytics and vehicle tracking data collected around your fleet’s location can be used over time to measure the effectiveness of current routes. This historical data can then be combined with real-time data – for example traffic information – in order to make better decisions with last mile routes, improving fleet efficiency and customer service.

Autonomous vehicles have been mooted for many years. Their inevitable arrival to cold chain fleets is already reflected in changing attitudes: according to a Deloitte study, up to 68% of fleet managers would be willing to pay extra for autonomous driving. This growing acceptance is because of the obvious benefits that the technology can provide. Automation could increase productivity, improve road user safety, and lower fuel consumption.

These technological changes could be closer than you think. Ocado is already running trials of unmanned delivery vehicles, with zero-emission pods delivering groceries to customers. Meanwhile, the Department for Transport and Highways England have commissioned the first real-world operational trial of platooning vehicles on UK roads. By using technology that allows trucks to communicate with each other, they’re able to operate as a single unit, improving fuel efficiency, safety, journey time and more.

Jack Morris, channel partner manager at Masternaut: “There’s little doubt that the future of cold chain will be driven by enhanced technology.”

But technology isn’t the only thing that’s changing: social attitudes are too. Environmental consciousness will continue to rise, affecting cold chain fleet management in two key areas: changing habits in personal consumption, and an increased expectation for businesses to act responsibly.

On an individual level, shoppers are more interested in the quality, safety and healthiness of the food that they buy. This has seen fresh, organic fruit and vegetable sales increase by 5.3% in the UK over the last year.

Moreover, lifestyle changes have prompted a big rise in food boxes (expected to generate £7.2bn globally by 2020) and online grocery deliveries, further increasing the demand for effective cold chain solutions.

The other significant attitude change is accountability. Customers want to know how their food reaches them and that businesses are proactive in their efforts to operate sustainably. Again, this is where telematics can help. It’s easy for a company to demonstrate their commitment to quality control, for example, by using real-time data tracking to proactively monitor temperatures in vehicles, while also proving their eco credentials by showing the amount of CO2 reduction.

The consequences of environmental consciousness reach even further, specifically through tightened legislation. In the UK, new emission regulations (WLTP and RDE) arrive in 2019. Moreover, the world’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone in London is imminent, with plans for expansion over the next two years and the likelihood that other major cities will follow suit. Taking proactive steps to improve a fleet’s carbon footprint will put businesses on much stronger footing, whether that’s achieved through telematics or automated and electric vehicles.

There’s little doubt that the future of cold chain will be driven by enhanced technology. The cold chain monitoring market alone is expected to grow to $6.46bn by 2023. As such, businesses which leverage technology in long-term strategy will be best placed to adapt to continuing changes in attitudes and regulations. An efficient, connected fleet is the most obvious way of achieving these goals.


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