Innovation through Real-time Temperature Visibility

Winter Is Coming

It’s mid-November in Chicago, 19 degrees with high winds. Frozen pumpkins line city porches. The Chicago Bears have just won their fourth game of the season. And millions across the Midwest are preparing for the long, cruel winter ahead. As a Customer Success Manager at FourKites with a focus in the food and beverage vertical, I wonder what this time of year means for my clients who represent some of the world’s largest supply chains.

For transportation visibility, there is more nuance than “Where’s my truck?,” particularly when it comes to controlled temperature chain (CTC) shipments. CTC is a term commonly used with medical or pharmaceutical supply chains, and refers to how to keep those shipments stable while in transit. In the F&B world, too, many of my clients are looking for stable-temperature status confirmation to prevent product spoilage.

 

The Road Is Long and Full of Potholes

According to the United Nations, about 1.3 billion tons of food produced each year are lost or wasted, causing losses of up to $750 billion worldwide. If CTC visibility could save even a fraction of that, we could transform loss into opportunity for the world’s largest manufacturers. And this isn’t just a cost concern; it’s a national health concern. Per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 48 million people in the U.S get sick each year from food-borne illness, 3,000 of whom die.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Obama in 2011, was designed to ensure more transparency in the processes of growing, harvesting, packing, shipping and storing perishable foods. That’s a huge win for public health! The FDA said that “to uphold the record keeping standards and requirements, food processors must be able to track and trace products across the entire lifecycle – from source to finished product, so the FDA is able to locate where 100% of those products are within a reasonable timeframe.” 

What’s interesting here is that there’s no language (and certainly no mandate) requiring real-time accessibility of temperature data. While the FSMA allows food producers up to 24 hours to present documentation, it does little to address any issues that occur during transportation, nor how to satisfy the request for documentation. Shippers and carriers are required to use proper equipment to haul perishable products, but they’re not required to monitor temperature data in real time. 

This is where FourKites comes in. We integrate with temperature providers to provide real-time, predictive insights into temperature data. The biggest obstacle here is that not all carriers have direct integrations with the temperature control devices. In many cases, the equipment will measure the temperature of the trailer during the lifecycle of the load, but the driver must manually download that data when the truck is stopped or once the load is complete. While this technically meets the requirements of the FSMA, it leaves much to be desired. 

Armed with FourKites, which automatically tracks temperature data throughout transit, shippers in our network have greater confidence in the quality of their shipments, and are empowered to be proactive and take action on at-risk loads before their product spoils. 

Hold the Door

What does this look like in practice? FourKites works with a large food manufacturer that is well-equipped to ingest real-time temperature data via an integration within our platform. In transit, the customer receives real-time temperature notifications, and is alerted when/if the product falls outside of the acceptable temperature threshold for a specified time tolerance. This level of proactive visibility allows the shipper to take action and stabilize the product well before it perishes. If this scenario arises while the product is in transit, the shipper can call the carrier and contingency action can happen immediately. If the notification happens while the product is being loaded or unloaded at the stop, the shipper can call the responsible party and take the necessary steps to save the load. 

This type of proactive “saving”, based on real-time temperature tracking, can save hundreds of thousands of dollars per full truckload. According to United World Transportation, shippers and brokers require that carriers hold a requisite minimum $100,000 cargo coverage. Just one or two saved loads per year pays for the entire program.

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Supply chain professionals around the world are quickly realizing the strategic advantages of having access to real-time data throughout the value chain. In my world of increased customer demand, rising transportation costs and uncertain market conditions, this programmatic advantage is becoming unquestionably necessary for long-term growth. The first big wave of visibility came in the form of location tracking in transportation. But I believe the larger opportunity is through the visible temperature chain. Perhaps in the process of minimizing temperature variability, we can also make the world a healthier place.

For more information and best practices for securing your temperature-sensitive shipments, download our Ultimate Guide to Temperature Tracking for Modern Supply Chains.

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