Latest Tech Advancements in Cold Chain Logistics

Bhushan Paralkar, an IIM Bangalore alumnus, he is a seasoned industry professional with over two decades of experience in the supply chain management space. Prior to joining Snowman Logistics in 2017, he successfully handled key roles across companies such as RK Food- land, Accenture, Aditya Birla Retail, and Future Group.

In a conversation with Charulatha, Correspondent, Siliconindia Magazine, Bhushan shared his insights on the current cold chain logistics space in India and ways in which the latest tech advancements are reshaping the industry lately. Below are a few key extracts from the exclusive interview -

Tell us about the key tech advancements that are disrupting the cold chain industry and its operations lately
Since cold chain management primarily deals with perishable items and goods that have to be maintained at a certain temperature, IoT sensors help us in real-time monitoring of the temperature and quality of the goods. Also, automation is enabling us to simplify our daily operations by reducing human intervention and offering better outcomes. Latest advancements in refrigeration technologies are helping us make sure to keep the refrigeration systems running smoothly. Additionally, ERP systems play a crucial role in efficiently running cold chain operations and compiling real-time data records of goods. Lastly, the latest technologies are enabling end-to-end traceability within cold chain logistics. This streamlines the entire process among all the different stakeholders involved in the business.

How has automation and robotics influenced cold chain logistics and warehousing?
In our line of business, many monotonous jobs are being done by people such as taking inventory of stocks, allotment of fuel to the fleet of vehicles, and more. RPA gathers data from the transport system, calculates the fuel requirement for that particular trip based on that particular vehicle’s mileage and routes, takes into account the present fuel rates from various fuel stations on the routes, and offers tailored recommendations for each trip as to which fuel stations might be the most optimal option considering the final destinations. Most importantly, all this happens in a matter of a few seconds, thus saving a lot of time for fuel calculations, and recommendations also helping drivers to share directions for the defined fuel stations and final destinations.

What is the contribution of artificial intelligence towards better decision-making within the cold chain logistics process?
For perishable, chemicals, or pharmaceutical products, real time monitoring of their temperature and quality is paramount, which earlier was a very time-consuming and tedious task. However today, AI has automated the entire process, making it more efficient and reducing errors. Every vehicle is equipped with a GPS device that captures and transfers real-time data to the central system, which is then passed on to the respective stakeholders & applications to make faster decisions. Additionally, this also helps in route optimization, inventory management, quality control, and traceability by taking into account various factors such as road conditions, weather, and many other factors, thus saving a lot of resources. This process also enables the logistics companies to take immediate corrective measures in case of any uncertainties, mishaps, or system failures during transit. As a result, I believe that AI-powered predictive analytics has been a game changer for the cold chain logistics industry.

Briefly explain the impact of IoT on optimizing the cold chain management operations
Data gathering and analysis is one of the most crucial factors in cold chain management operations, which is made possible only by leveraging IoT devices. These devices record realtime data of various aspects through their sensors – be it in terms of temperature, product quality, vehicle data such as mileage, remaining fuel, and many others. These devices not only help in maintaining the temperature of goods in transit but also do so in the most optimized way possible. Additionally, this also enables logistics companies to check whether the drivers are adhering to all rules and safety guidelines during the entire course of their trip.

In your opinion, how do you see the cold chain logistics space in the near future?
Going forward, IoT devices and ERP systems will continue being the must have aspects for every business operating in the cold chain logistics space. Automation and predictive analytics will witness an addition of many more use cases within the cold chain industry. Owing to such impressive tech advancements, cold chain logistics is expected to witness significant growth in the coming years, which will result in more players entering this market.