Get Everything Under Control with the Right Software
Let's be honest. Cold chain management is difficult. Moving refrigerated and frozen goods from Point A to Point X, Y, and Z—especially when using a third-party courier—poses a colossal challenge to even the best-equipped companies.
On top of all the usual demands of keeping a regular product supply chain moving, streamlined, and consistently delivering, one has to consider extreme environmental and independent power controls. Adding bespoke manufacturing and stopover cold storage to the mix complicates matters further still.
Specialized industries (e.g., pharmaceuticals, dairy, electronics) have their own requirements and sensitivities to consider. And time-sensitive cargo also brings other challenges. If there's an unexpected problem such as a breakdown, missing goods, or a diversion, there needs to be an effective way to resolve or mitigate it—fast.
Optimizing a cold chain to get everything to where it should be, as it should be, within a certain timeframe, can prove even trickier. Luckily, effective refrigerated and frozen transport is far easier to plan, control, and successfully execute than in the recent past.
Why? Digital dashboards. Networked, remote management of rolling cold supply chains from a multi-user cloud server is now a functional reality.
Electronic tracking of sophisticated, mobile sensor equipment has revolutionized the versatility, effectiveness, and accuracy of smart cold chain delivery. Faster, more precise, logged cold delivery helps eliminate accidental loss of cargo, reduces in-journey spoilage by guarding against heat damage, and keeps logistics fully transparent and accountable.
With the demand for in-house and third-party refrigerated transport growing fast due to the 2021 COVID-19 vaccine roll out and the continual rise of doorstep grocery delivery, there's never been a better time to learn more about how it all works.
What is digital cold chain management?
Today, internet, GPS, and mobile-linked sensors and location trackers can relay near real-time data metrics back from drivers, fridges, and crates.
Transport temperature, humidity, geographic position, remaining power and fuel, and performance against estimated benchmarks (i.e., travel time, overall temperature stability) are all recorded and sent back to headquarters. Data from cooled vehicles and standing facilities feeds into specialized, automated software stored on a centrally accessible server.
A database updates in near real time, creating a dynamic overview of the entire chain. Long-term, daily data forms into performance logs. Monitoring allows for the creation of better, more precise KPI (key performance indicator) targets and performance checks. Vital data from other sources (i.e., weather, traffic reports) creates context.
Tracking systems then display this data back to cold chain managers, allowing them to make executive decisions and supply chain corrections on the fly. An integrated dashboard means that production capacity and vehicles can be activated, deactivated, rerouted, and substituted as managers see fit.
The software can also automatically detect and flag (or even correct for) unexpected errors and obstacles. Managers are alerted quickly to any current and ongoing issues with the delivery system. Breaks, faults, and overflows are stopped ahead of time through proactive monitoring and maintenance.
Why is a good cold chain management dashboard so important?
Ultimately, a digitized supply chain and the controls applied to it are only as good as the data relay and control that underpins each manager's experience as an end-user. While remote sensors are one critical part of the puzzle, they can't solve everything alone.
To truly succeed, one needs an excellent quality digital dashboard that can display all collected crucial data as simple-to-understand readouts, chart performance, and create map visuals that show where cargo is at any given point in the chain. With cold transport, one also needs a host cloud platform that can manage fast feedback, multiple user input, and remote 'login anywhere' capabilities.
Inventory management via dashboard is vital, too. Confinement and criteria function labels are crucial to keeping valuable products safe, secure, and correctly stored. Dynamic, automatic temperature adjustment (via a shipped product database) can help to make a supply chain more fluid while reducing the risks of damaging human error.
When it comes to ensuring outgoing management works, seamless integration is also essential. Communication lines, actionable alerts, and remote adjustments all need to be present as accessible, linked tools on a virtual desktop.
Also required, is a way to set, monitor, and advertise realistic, scaling internal targets across time using the dashboard's metrics. Sub-managers, technicians, and drivers can't optimize services without a clear idea of what exactly they should improve upon!
What should a great cold chain management dashboard show and do?
Many “off-the-shelf” digital supply management dashboards aren't comprehensive, detailed, or focused enough to match the needs of a standard, demanding cold supply chain. While they might be useful for as-is transit, they lack the depth and sophistication needed to manage so many independent, tightly controlled variables.
The solution needs to be adaptable to new criteria and demands. It also needs specialized sensor interpretation setup that provides firm baseline metrics collection and analysis.
Some standard-issue packages might be suitable - particularly if purchasing and adding specialized cold chain management modules. However, it is also worth looking at commissioning a customized dashboard from a software developer if nothing suits the company's current setup or planned expansions.
Here's a brief checklist covering what cold chain management dashboard software should ideally be able to do.
Visualization, Alerts, Data Collection, and Displays
Create a graphical, zoomable road (or rail) map plotting routes and current location of all shipments.
Create a clickable overview of all origins, destinations, packaging modes, supply chain partners, and trade lanes. • Display the current journey progress, current temperature and humidity per shipment.
Display data readouts as scrolling, searchable lists, and general performance charts logged over time.
Output temperature alerts to send automatic, urgent warnings via SMS and email to the right service providers and managers when faults or abnormal heat stress are detected.
Perform automated assessment against the remaining stability budget and release the product upon arrival at destination.
Combine your incoming position, temperature, and public access data to create the best possible active overview.
Generate metadata summaries, charts, and auto-targets to help with KPI creation and attainment.
Command, Control, and Administration
Create automatic receipts and distribute automatic notifications when a 'step' transition occurs (e.g., warehouse to van, van to delivery point).
Offer personalized, modular customization that allows individual components and tracked metrics to be pinned to the dashboard and monitored as each user sees fit.
Integrate direct communication (i.e., SMS, email) links to all relevant staff.
Offer ways to import and export data from backups and third-party files.
Remotely enable and disable sensors as needed.
Check all movements against expected scheduling and adapt if new changes appear.
Deliver daily schedules to all relevant staff and report back periodically on expected performance.
Warn service providers about any special requirements (e.g., fragile medicines, extremely low-temperature crates).
Incorporate emergency planning strategies to better cope with unexpected transport disruptions, larger accidents, and natural disasters.