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Can digitisation help crack perishable supply chain inefficiencies?

Can digitisation help crack perishable supply chain inefficiencies?

London, UK: Tackling waste from different angles remains the top concern at the 8th Cool Logistics Global Conference in Bremen and the role of digitisation will be a key issue.

Shereen Zarkani, recently-appointed head of Reefer Management at Maersk Line, will be the first to admit that implementing real-time remote container management (RCM) technology across the carrier’s global refrigerated container operations has not been without its challenges.

Maersk’s new RCM system, which connects the entire 270,000+ reefer container fleet of MaerskLine, MCC Transport, Safmarine, SeaLand and SeagoLine, went live operationally in Q3 2015 and was first officially launched in public at last year’s Cool Logistics Global Conference in Bruges, sparking lively debate.

Using GPS/GSM telematics devices fitted with a range of sensors – technology that is now being used in a growing array of machine-to-machine and Internet of Things  initiatives across commerce and industry – Maersk’s RCM system allows it to locate its reefer boxes worldwide, monitor how its equipment is performing and remotely adjust temperature settings and other key parameters.

“Maersk Line has opened up a new chapter in the digitisation debate of reefer shipping, thus in effect setting a new standard for the whole industry,” Zarkani said, who joins as a speaker for the first time this year at the 8th Cool Logistics Global conference in Bremen, 27-28 September. In a recent LinkedIn post, Maersk CCO Vincent Clerc argues that digitally connected ‘smart containers’ will “enable greater visibility over cargo, and more importantly, a significant reduction in damaged cargo.”

“More than 59% of claims stem from malfunctioning reefer units, poor supplier handling of off-power periods and wrong temperature set points; all of which can either be partially avoided or mitigated proactively with live data,” he said.

The sheer volume of waste that persists within perishable supply chains, and (lack of) visibility, transparency and connectivity among shippers, carriers and other supply chain members, have been among the most enduring – and often contentious – topics since Cool Logistics opened its doors in 2009.

Seven years on, these issues remain central to improving global cold chain efficiency and, indeed, are arguably more important than ever before in today’s challenging market climate. “Perishable supply chains are becoming riskier and more complex due to changes in global trade patterns on the one hand and bigger ships, shipping alliances and increased transshipment on the other”, said Alex von Stempel, managing director, Cool Logistics Resources.

“With waste remaining the biggest threat in the supply chain, Professor Deirdre Holcroft will also join the debate in Bremen this year to challenge existing practices spanning the entire supply chain from product to retail. As President of Holcroft Consulting and an international authority on post-harvest physiology, Dr. Holcroft will assess the current causes and levels of waste in the supply chain and review key measures and technologies to tackle persistent problems right up to the very last mile.

She will also challenge the role of the retailers in tackling waste more effectively, including whether track and trace systems used by shippers at the behest of retail sector really work. “One issue we are keen to explore this year is whether new implementations of IoT and M2M technology are at risk of causing more supply chain confusion,” added Mr. von Stempel. “Will the proliferation of traceability systems merely highlight the great divide between the production and retail ends of the chain?”

Holcroft has over ten years’ experience as a lecturer, researcher and professor at University California, Davis KwaZulu Natal, Stellenbosch and Michigan State. She has also spearheaded projects for launching fresh-cut fruit for Dole Fresh Vegetables, assess and perfect new delivery systems for agricultural chemicals, and optimize postharvest handling for the shipment of perishable commodities by land freight.

More direct shipper input at the conference will also be provided by Anton Bril, manager trade services, VGB, the Dutch Association of Floriculture Wholesalers. Kenya exports 120,000 tonnes of fresh flowers per annum, the majority of which is transported by air. While VGB ships just 10 tonnes of Kenyan flowers by sea each year at present, Mr. Bril anticipates that this could eventually swell up to 12,000 boxes per annum as a result of ongoing technical work.

The shipping keynote at Cool Logistics Global this year will be provided by Thorsten Haeser, Hapag-Lloyd.  A recent entrant to the world of shipping after a long career in the telecoms sector, latterly as managing director at Versatel GmbH, and before that in management positions with Telefonica O2 and VIAG Interkom, Haeser represents a new generation of executives charged with bringing in fresh thinking and concepts from the outside the industry.

As a direct response to current market developments, and after consultation with key advisers, the long-standing annual ‘ocean freight debate’ at Cool Logistics Global will this year change its name to the digitisation debate. Shippers, carriers, freight forwarders and academics will be given the opportunity share their views how technology can help streamline the reefer shipping and logistics sector.

The 8th Cool Logistics Global will provide two days of high-level debates and sessions on commercial, operational and technical challenges, covering all angles of perishable trade, logistics and temperature-controlled transport.

8th Cool Logistics Global
27 – 28 September 2016
The Park Hotel
Bremen, Germany
www.coollogisticsglobal.com