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How modern tech helps avoid wastage of perishables during transportation
Tuesday, 07 June, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Sanket Sheth
FnbNewsWastage of perishable products was & is a universal issue that impacts every single person, in one way or the other. If we just consider global food wastage, then almost 1/3rd of the food produced for consumption is discarded through all stages of the food supply chain. As per the report by Boston Consulting Group, this wastage is expected to double by 2030. Almost 8-10% of global gas emissions are associated with the disposal of unconsumed food. Thus, this wastage doesn't just convert into a financial loss for the company but it also affects the environment adversely.

Poor cold chain & disorganised transportation are one of the biggest contributors to food loss.  Thus globally, a lot of initiatives started toward reducing wastage across all stages of the perishable supply chain by focusing more on visibility & taking immediate corrective action. New-age technologies are now available to monitor the movement of these short-lived products right from the farm to delivery. Here is a list of the Top 3 technological initiatives that have helped avoid wastage of perishable products during transportation:

1. Load Consolidation
This step is needed to consolidate the right kind of products as per different factors like product expiry, present quality, nature of the commodity, packaging requirements, etc. In the case of medicinal & other pharmaceutical products, it's important to manage and move the inventory of products whose expiry date is coming close.  We all have heard of the saying “One bad apple spoils the bunch” and it is definitely true with a lot of fruits and vegetables. Such commodities need to be analysed and classified as raw/ready/ripe etc. so that they can be dispatched in separate packaging reducing wastage. New age sensors & scanners come as a saviour here as they instantly share the product specifications with the system which in turn then plans the consolidation of products & their dispatch as per First Expiry, First-Out (FEFO) methodology. While dispatching the products nearing expiry, special attention should also be given to loading the vehicles as per the FEFO strategy.

2. Delivery Planning
Technology has sorted out the lives of logistics and transportation managers today by finding the shortest and the most convenient routes for deliveries in a single click. Depending upon the nature of the products, one just needs to input the criteria for planning deliveries (like product use-by dates, delivery time slots of the consignee, traffic situation, cost/mile of reefer trucks, etc. ) and the system then gives the best possible sequence of the route that needs to be followed for delivery. Various software companies today work along with applications like Google Maps to give the best and the most reliable route output without any manual intervention.

Another important factor here is to manage the frequency of transportation in line with the demand for the perishable item. For example, Milk & dairy products are one of the highest consumable perishable commodities and their transportation and delivery need to be planned to maximise their shelf life. Otherwise, these products will be wasted even before they reach their end-user.

3. Temperature tracking throughout the product movement
The first two initiatives are crucial to eliminating the waste that has happened beyond human control. Post that everything needs to be monitored all the time to minimise the wastage across the supply chain. Apart from a strong cold chain network, highly responsive temperature sensors and a strong system to generate instantaneous alerts can majorly help in reducing wastage during transportation. With advancements in technology, nowadays it's even possible to measure ambient specifications like humidity, ethylene gas, and pH values to get a better idea of the quality of the product and the degree of contamination (if any). Even a slight non-compliance in any of these variables triggers multiple alarms and alerts to take immediate corrective actions. Later on, reports are generated with the exact time & location coordinates of the spoilage that help identify the root cause and take preventive measures for the future.

Compliance with the perishable goods transportation
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has laid a few ground rules for perishable goods transportation. For instance, one of the rules requires shippers to have documented sanitary practices when transporting food items. They have issued a standard scale of temperature that needs to be followed while transporting different categories of goods. Technology comes into the picture here by optimally recording all the relevant transportation details for each trip/vehicle/driver/product category in the system and making it easier to retrieve this information for the proof of food safety & compliance. The right product with the updated correct set of information won't get rejected at any stage of inspection unless it has gone bad or become totally consumable. These technological features don’t directly contribute to waste reduction but they do ensure that only good-quality products are made available in the market hence, reducing the wastage at the later stage.

Technology solutions that made an impact
Companies around the world have come up with innovative ways to minimise the wastage of consumable products. Mimica Touch, a company based out of the UK, had invented temperature-sensitive indicator tags that change texture when food items are no longer fresh. Another company called developed a mobile app that scans the food & vegetables and gives quality reports declaring them fit/unfit for consumption.

(The author is founder and managing director, Elixia Tech Solutions)
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