Where we are and where we’re going
There’s no doubt about it. Technology and the pursuit of innovation are essential to VersaCold’s commitment to our customers and ensuring the safety, quality and freshness of the food families eat.
We recently sat down with our Chief Information Officer and SVP, Bala Puvitharan, to discuss the importance of technological advancement throughout the cold supply chain and the efforts VersaCold is taking to lead the charge. Here are 5 ways we are utilizing technology to stay ahead of the curve, support our customers and better our processes.
IoT Sensors – The Big Differentiator
With the advancement of IoT (the Internet of Things), VersaCold saw the value early on and deployed IoT Sensors in our trucks and warehouses to monitor real-time temperature, humidity and movement to capture important data to support analytics. This allows VersaCold end-to-end monitoring of customer shipments from the time they are received to the time they are delivered.
“Our biggest technological advantage is the usage of IoT,” Puvitharan says. “A year and a half ago we deployed sensors that allow us to continuously monitor the temperature and humidity of our shipments and warehouses all over the continent.”
These tiny sensors are currently placed throughout our 30+ warehouse facilities, our trailers and even in the reefer units on our trucks, allowing us to continuously ensure temperature integrity. Beyond reporting real-time temperatures, they track when doors have been opened or closed, specific zone temperature variances, GPS locations and much more. And at the request of customers, these sensors can even be attached to a particular pallet of temperature-sensitive products that need additional attention to ensure they are safe and of the highest quality at the moment of delivery.
Proactive management is a key tenet of the way we support our customers. And technology is the catalyst. We know there are times when something completely unexpected happens and we have to react quickly, but the more we prioritize proactivity, the less we have to rely on being reactive.
For Puvitharan, it’s all about proactive management. One of the most important uses of the IoT sensors is the threshold limits that have been placed on the sensors in order to issue alerts when a temperature shift is coming close to reaching the threshold.
“At 80–90% of the determined threshold, the driver will receive an alert, or if it’s in the warehouse the alert is sent to the engineer—so that whoever receives the alert can proactively manage the problem and adjust the temperature before it goes outside the threshold.”
Keeping Customers in the Data Loop
For years, collecting data has been invaluable to progressing our operations and services. The data we gather improves our procedures and helps us to find efficiencies that we then pass on to our customers throughout the supply chain. And over the last couple years we have been able to employ a system whereby we share that data with our customers so they can have holistic view of the status of their food and how we continually partner to keep it secure and fresh.
“In terms of data sharing, we have implemented customer portals that can be viewed on any device, anytime. This visibility allows customers to track inventory and availability, retrieve reports, and based on their needs, they can even place an order directly in the portal,” Puvitharan explains.
Right now, VersaCold hosts a transportation portal and a warehouse portal, but in the near future, as part of our digital transformation journey, we plan to integrate both into one seamless customer experience.
Analytics for Advancing Prediction
Over the last 18 months, we have begun to deploy systems and technology to further our higher analytics capabilities through data mining and data visualization. This allows us to discern patterns and find abnormal activities or exceptions, which enable us to uncover opportunities, compile predictive analysis, implement proactive decision-making and ultimately improve the supply chain for our customers.
Currently we are accessing and combining data from our warehouse management system, our transportation management system and our IoT sensors, as well as financial data to compile predictive analytics and produce customer-specific KPIs. This allows our customers to have an overall view of the cold chain as well as to satisfy complex compliance requirements.
“Customers want more info. We use data a lot and I believe we can take data analytics to the next level,” Puvitharan says. “For instance, right now many hours are spent with people analysing the data to compile predictive analysis, but what’s even more exciting is where we are going.…”.
Looking Ahead – Predicting Even Better Prediction
So where are we going? Puvitharan sees predictive analysis as the future of technology at VersaCold. Over the next few short years, his team will be implementing more technologies to strengthen VersaCold’s predictive capabilities, including the use of robotic process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Because the more we can predict, the better we can partner to ensure the safety, quality, and freshness of the food families eat.