Researchers Track Perishables Through Cold Chain

Deloitte Consulting LLP (New York) and the RFID Research Center at the University of Arkansas (UA, Fayetteville, Ark.) are working together to monitor and control conditions in the distribution chain for perishable goods. Deloitte and UA collaborated with Chiquita Brands International (Cincinnati), which provided refrigerated trucks and perishable products from its supply chain. Researchers found that temperatures within a shipping container can vary up to 35% from pallet to pallet, contributing to perishable freight losses.

"In addition to negatively impacting manufacturers' and distributors' financial results,” said Doug Standley of Deloitte Consulting, “these losses contribute to waste, pollution, inefficient utilization of resources and illnesses caused by poor handling. When these adverse events—such as unacceptable temperature changes—occur, being able to quickly alert all parties and take remedial action can provide real value and go a long way toward resolving the issue."

"We have a long tradition, dating back to 1903 when we first introduced the use of refrigerated cargo ships to transport bananas, as leaders in innovative cold-chain management," said Waheed Zaman, Chiquita's senior v.p. of supply chain and procurement. "Our decision to actively participate in this study was driven by our continued desire to optimize the quality and freshness of our healthy foods for consumers and customers."

"This project showed that wireless and sensory technologies are a reliable, cost-effective way to investigate temperature and other conditions within a supposedly environmentally controlled trailer," said Bill Hardgrave, director of the UA RFID Research Center. "The preliminary data from the experiment are already beginning to provide insight into a 'real world' environment that until now had been prohibitively expensive to track. Overall, this project--even at this early stage--is rapidly bringing into focus the vision of a truly intelligent cold chain."

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