M2M cuts the world's 30% wastage of food, drugs and other perishable cargoes

Jürgen Hase, VP of the M2M Competence Centre, Deutsche Telekom: Smart Factories

(Blog: September 20, 2013) — More than 30% of fresh produce around the world spoils before it reaches its destination – and ends up wasted rather than on store shelves. Often the cause is inadequate supply chain management. With the aid of M2M, says Jürgen Hase (pictured), we can considerably reduce wastage rates for perishables and make a contribution to sustainable food handling.

Mangoes from Thailand, beef from Argentina, rice from India: Some 91 million tons of perishable goods were shipped in 2011 alone. Figures such as these demonstrate that the trade in perishable goods, such as food, flowers or pharmaceuticals, plays a vital role in today’s global economy.

Yet many of these goods never actually reach the consumer. For instance, according to UK surveys, approximately 4,000 tons of food waste results from inadequate distribution logistics each year.

Transporting fresh produce from A to B often takes several days, and requires proper supply and cool chain management – i.e. distribution logistics. The slightest variation in temperature inside containers can lead to foodstuffs, flowers or drugs spoiling sooner than expected. That’s where Deutsche Telekom’s machine-to-machine (M2M) solution comes in. The solution, recently presented at the M2M Summit in Dusseldorf, makes real-time monitoring of freight shipments possible. The tracking hardware is quick and easy to fix to the container.

Temperature under control

The solution consists of a tracking device and a web-based monitoring programme that customers can use to track their shipments. As refrigerated containers have to be absolutely airtight to maintain their performance, the tracking hardware consists of two units: one fitted with antennas, is affixed to the outside of the container, while the other, a sensor unit, is located inside the container. The two units are connected by short-range radio.

Customers specify in advance what events they wish to be informed of – for example, if the temperature in the container deviates from that prescribed for transporting produce to speed up spoilage. In this case, the system sends an automatic alarm signal to the customer. The M2M solution also helps firms comply with regulations from official bodies and the industry, such as EU directives on food hygiene, as well as optimising transportation routes. And it enables containers to be tracked down more quickly in the event of a theft.

Perishable goods
Some 91 million tons of perishable goods were shipped in 2011 alone.

Less spoiled food, more satisfied customers

Foodstuffs are difficult products in terms of their logistics, but they need to remain affordable for average consumers. Accordingly, the tracking solutions must also be cost-effective. M2M solutions have steadily developed over the past years. At the same time, their purchase and running costs have fallen considerably.

Real-time monitoring solutions are a great example of how improved monitoring of the supply chain can reduce food waste – ensuring that the mango from Thailand ends up in your fruit salad, and not in the garbage.

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