Focus on Food: Remote Monitoring in the Fresh Supply Chain

In any company, building trust among customers is imperative—but in the food industry, it’s the only way to sustain business. Ensuring consistently fresh and safe food is not an easy task, especially as food providers grow their reach across the country. Companies like Chipotle have seen the consequences of a lack of oversight in their supply chain, with disastrous results. One solution to the looming problem is Remote Monitoring (RMON). Can this new technology reshape food supply chains?

What is Remote Monitoring?

Effective monitoring and maintenance of refrigeration systems is a major key in providing fresh and safe food to customers. Remote monitoring gives real-time performance data on critical equipment, such as refrigeration systems, to manufacturers and retailers to help them make fast decisions and take necessary actions. It also provides valuable insights into how to prevent problems in the future. With remote monitoring, retailers can control and monitor their facility systems across their entire enterprise, giving them the power to better supervise their food and maintain efficiency throughout their entire chain.

Remote Monitoring in Action

A large food retailer with around 850 supermarkets wanted to reduce their perishable shrink expense without increasing their labor force. The problem was that the store personnel often did not have the expertise or time to analyze the alarms generated by their installed energy management systems. The retailer decided to invest in a remote monitoring plan to monitor and triage refrigeration and equipment alarms for its 55 stores. Third-party monitoring technicians and refrigeration experts would investigate equipment and temperature alarms for validity and severity before notifying the appropriate personnel. The combination of advanced alarm handling systems—which group, filter, and normalize alarms—along with the expertise of trained technicians helped replace the flood of raw alarm data with an efficient and effective stream of action-oriented insights. The main benefit of remote monitoring for the customers as well as the retailers is to have safe food with high quality. On the business end, RMON provided higher efficiency, reduction in labor demands, and lower energy cost.

Efficiency

To deliver fresh, high-quality food to satisfy every customer’s expectations, retailers should accurately and efficiently report product and case temperatures in stores and within supplier’s facilities and transport vehicles. Aside from the fact  that manual recording of temperature can require too much labor and time, it is also prone to human error. Food quality reporting through remote monitoring can automate this process to increase efficiency.

Lower cost

Connected coolers, freezers, HVAC units and others power-using equipment to a centralized program through remote monitoring applications,  retailers can get a concrete idea their energy consumption. Through this, retailers can manage equipment performance and utilize settings for optimum temperatures and lighting. The interconnectedness via remote monitoring can also help to identify problem areas and opportunities, which can also reduce cost.

Impact on the Food Industry

Programs like RMON are helping to boost efficiency in a far-reaching, clunky supply network. They are a great start. However, in order to truly modernize the food industry’s supply chains, several changes need to be implemented—storage and transport facilities must be updated to support modern technology. Suppliers and providers should find more ways to sift through food data to create long-term solutions, rather than quick fixes. And labor forces should be trained to understand and utilize the new technology. 

As food supply chains get larger and more involved, companies must ensure that their technology doesn’t grow stale—or they risk their food going the same way.

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