Logistics software and technology company Sensefinity might have netted major customers like Nestlé, but that doesn’t mean that smaller shippers can’t have access to the same technology. Recent developments such as Sensefinity’s Internet of Cargo are changing the way that shippers and other supply chain companies interact with their cargo. Spoilage, handling damage, cargo theft, temperature excursions… the list goes on, and these incidents can cost companies millions of dollars, or threaten lives in the cases of pharmaceuticals or food.
The days when pallets or containers disappeared into the supply chain and – hopefully – showed up on the other end weeks later are long over, says Sensefinity CEO Orlando Remédios. In this instalment of our “Executive Insights” series, Remédios explains how, thanks to recent developments, all shippers need is a cell phone and an internet connection, and they can pretty much guarantee the integrity of their shipments.
Remédios told Shipping and Freight Resource that not only can these new solutions can translate into immediate savings by reducing damage and loss, they can actually increase revenues by attracting customers that want better, but affordable visibility into their supply chains.
Shipping and Freight Resource: Can you talk about your work with Nestlé to improve visibility into shipping to ensure product safety, and what that means for other shippers in the future?
Orlando Remédios: The Idea for the Internet of Cargo started when a large freight-forwarder asked us to provide them with a solution that allowed them to verify the end-to-end integrity of their cold-chain assets. With time, they began to ask for additional features. Among them was the request to log excessive shocks to be able to identify the origin of damage. But the requirements didn’t end at transportation. They extended to warehouses, where the customer wanted to get indoor location tracking, to retrieve goods faster, and to get alerts if goods were moved without proper authorization.
While all these requests could have been solved with dedicated projects, we thought that there should be a comprehensive approach to systematically tackle the challenges of logistic operators. This led us to approach the requirements with a holistic solution that ultimately led to the creation of the Internet of Cargo.
Large brands using 3PL providers need to keep tight control of their goods in transit to avoid supply chain disruption and brand damage. Nestlé is working with Sensefinity to improve supply-chain security by using our technology for end-to-end cold-chain supervision. The real-time supervision of the cold-chain allows for the pro-active detection of potential harmful temperature spikes in temperature that may compromise the product and therefore decrease its shelf life or even be harmful to the consumer. With the Internet of Cargo, the detection of these temperature spikes is immediately signaled and pro-active action to remedy the situation can be taken to avoid spoilage of the products.
For smaller shippers that want to ensure the status and security of their shipments, where should they start, and what tools do they need?
In order to be part of the Internet of Cargo, shippers can start with the starter-pack, a Routing Tracker which is capable of operating on its own and sending data to the cloud. It comes with a global SIM card allowing it to operate globally and track location, temperature, humidity and shock/vibration anywhere in the world. Besides being able to follow their transports in real-time, shippers can use our Customer Portal to provide their customers with login information. By sharing this detailed data with customers, shippers are able to differentiate their service by providing customers with real-time visibility into their shipment. Later they can start creating rules based on location or freight status, e.g. automatically alert driver of abnormal cargo conditions.
There seems to be so much potential for technology like yours in shipping, and yet for the most part, it’s still not seeing widespread adoption. What are the barriers to onboarding new technology, and how are you working to modernize shipping?
Technology is becoming cheaper and more commonplace. Everyone can operate a smartphone now. We focused on making the user-experience of the system as simple as using a smartphone so that shippers are capable of using the system without the need for specialized consultants. The software is cloud-based and provides all the necessary features out of the box, so that the solution is productive from day one without the need for any customization efforts. In the future trucks, shipping containers and returnable plastic crates will natively support the Internet of Cargo providing a standard and automatic way for handling and transacting goods in the logistic chain.
Cargo theft is a massive problem; can you talk a little about how technology can help tackle this supply chain problem?
One of the main benefits of the Internet of Cargo is its facilitation of communication between Assets and Processes. The sensors are capable of detecting movement and will inform the processes about their status. Processes can determine if in the current location/time-frame the access is allowed, if not an alert can be triggered to inform about the unauthorized movement. This system can be extended to include sensors on trucks and containers which will be able to detect additional information which can enrich the process with context information to decide when it’s appropriate to triggering alerts.
Can you talk about the cost-advantages of the sort of supply chain visibility that Sensefinity offers?
The potential savings of having real-time, context information of the supply chain are enormous. It starts with the avoidance of waste due to the pro-active monitoring of transport and storage conditions, the savings of preventing cargo-theft and the potential to prevent supply chain disruptions.
How does Internet of Cargo help shippers, forwarders, and importers communicate better?
With the Internet of Cargo, the interaction between Locations, Vehicles and Assets is automatic and transparent. Shippers, forwarders and importers can tackle the real-time stream of data being generated to follow their assets and get visibility into the entire logistic-chain. Communication can now be based on real-time, verifiable data that every relevant actor will have at the same time, allowing for more relevant interactions and productive communication.
What potential does your technology have in offsetting supply chain disruption?
With the help of the Internet of Cargo it is possible to obtain complete supply chain visibility. It is possible for instance to detect the damaging of goods during transport and automatically trigger the re-order of a replacement, to avoid supply chain disruption. With our waste management partner Fazla Gida, it will soon be possible to automatically sell the rejected product to the most adequate up-cycling/re-cycling facility to the facility nearest to the detection of the event, further reducing the losses.
-End of Interview-
Remédios told us that the future of logistics was “starting to become more and more automated.” From his perspective at the head of a technology startup, he’s seeing how IT systems, robotic warehouses and the advent of autonomous vehicles are changing the way we ship and warehouse. “It is a natural evolution that these separate entities start to communicate with each other and that digitization moves further to containers and smart packages,” Remédios explained.
At logistics conferences around the world, these themes have taken over the debate. And as the major players embrace these solutions, smaller companies will be forced to play catch up. However, with the barriers to entry shrinking, now reduced in many cases to a cell phone and internet connection, it’s worth looking into what your options are, and asking where you can stay ahead of the curve.