Telematics and the cold chain

Telematics and the cold chain

By Henry Smith – MiX Telematics Africa Fleet sales director | All photos by MiX Telematics Africa

A major part of the cold chain is the various logistics and warehousing, and how telematics can assist.

Good telematics systems not only allow a company to monitor the position of their vehicles and drivers, but also provides the company with different types of data – such as fuel consumption, driving behaviour and fatigue – which help you to heighten your insights into how best to manage your fleet effectively.

Telematics data is used to provide real-time intelligence that can be acted on proactively. It consists of a sophisticated onboard computer that collects and transmits valuable vehicle and driver information. This data is hosted in one of several top-tier data centres, with information accessible online or via a mobile app for Android or iOS. The software platform would be completely secure, and the features help operators to make informed and timely decisions regarding the performance of their fleet. 

Depending on specific operational goals or regional requirements, customers can choose from a range of compatible fleet management add-ons, such as video recording systems to in-cab navigation and messaging devices, driver engagement tools, an hours-of-service solution, journey management, and satellite communication, among others.

Industries where telematics can be applied

Telematics is widely used for logistics purposes and can in fact be implemented across multiple industries, although it does not necessarily have to be linked to a vehicle. It can be connected to a stationary asset, like a fuel pump to monitor fuel transactions as well.

Various industries that utilise telematics include:

  • Transport and distribution
  • Cold chain
  • FMCG
  • Oil and Gas
  • Construction
  • Mining and resources
  • Rental and leasing
  • Courier services
  • Security Services
  • Public transport (bus and taxi services)
  • Government
  • Utilities

Telematics and the cold chain

As telematics data is used in fleet management solutions, it provides improved efficiencies, better asset security, lowered risk and ensures compliance to industry-related regulations and procedures. MiX Telematics, as one of the service providers to the industry, offers real-time visibility of fleets and shows fleet managers how their assets are being utilised in order to make their fleet more productive, saving them time and money.

The main challenge that cold chain transporters face is moving perishable goods – often across long distances with tight schedules – while maintaining the correct refrigeration temperatures.

In order to stay competitive and deliver goods that are temperature and/or time-sensitive, these fleet operators must implement a fleet management solution that can help them to better manage their fleet utilisation for on-time collection and delivery of these goods, while also monitoring the temperature of the refrigerated trailers – as well as minimising on-road and driver-related risks. 

Being able to locate vehicles and loads, while optimising delivery schedules and monitoring temperatures, is therefore, key to enabling the success of cold chain fleets. Telematics solutions form an integral part of these fleet operations, allowing fleets to:

  • Track vehicles, drivers and cargo in real-time (and historically)
  • Optimise routing for a fleet of vehicles
  • Measure, monitor and report on the temperature of refrigerated compartments and, in so doing, proactively manage product quality from pick-up to drop-off.
    • Immediate action can be taken when temperature exceptions occur; Temperature data is available 24/7/365 via a management web portal and mobile application
    • Retrieve, view and analyse temperature data to reveal whether goods in transit were subjected to any out-of-tolerance temperature variances
    • Pinpoint when and where variances occurred, as well as the possible cause of the variances
    • Comply with food transport safety regulations, verify temperature control complaints when they arise, and protect a brand’s overall integrity
    • Detect issues with temperature control early on, thanks to live tracking which reduces food wastage and improves results on health inspections
    • Access the full temperature history for the goods that were in transit for up to 36 months; This data can be used to calculate the loss of shelf-life or the likelihood of spoilage
    • Assess and improve the overall health of the systems and procedures in place by tracking and monitoring the trends of spoilage or loss of shelf-life events
  • Monitor driver behaviour and in turn, reduce fuel consumption and accident occurrences
  • Reduce business risk and increase safety across the fleet
  • Improve service levels to clients

Another important consideration is the security of goods in transit. A complete fleet management solution should provide customised real-time alerts for driving and security-related incidents, as well as a stolen vehicle recovery solution in case of hijacking or vehicle theft.

Benefit of data and management

Live video streaming allows for the monitoring of journey context.Live video streaming allows for the monitoring of journey context.

Some advanced telematics options offer fleet operators access to information about their vehicles and drivers, with a host of features, tools and reports to not only maximise efficiency but importantly increase safety for both drivers and their valuable cargos.

The tracking module in these solutions provides a real-time view of a vehicle or asset’s position – whether it’s stationary or on the move – and which driver is behind the wheel. It also displays information relating to speed, driving direction, ignition status, driving violations, past trips, and more.

Proactive monitoring is also possible thanks to live information streams. These streams are user-defined, and contain information about events, as well as messages to and from the connected asset and/or driver. 

Our telematics solution as an example offers robust reporting capabilities enabling data to be reviewed and analysed in detail, as well as in dynamic and customisable formats. Reports include movement, location, and trip and utilisation reports, as well as driver scoring, fuel, event violations and cost analysis reports.

Whatever the goal – be it to save fuel, improve safety, increase utilisation, or enhance customer service – telematics solutions are proven to bring about significant results.

Data sharing and integration

MiX Telematics uses an application programming interface (API) that is essentially a computing interface that defines interactions between multiple software intermediaries. API platforms serve as a bridge between telematics data and a customer’s third-party or in-house applications.

This means that the customer can then select and filter data according to their relevant criteria and then that custom-filtered data is relayed to their choice of applications to use in their own environment.

Behaviour alterations

Various telematics solutions offer a range of safety features to improve behaviour, including real-time safety alerts that allow drivers to correct actions whilst driving. Driving event-alerts give fleet managers insight into driver performance, allowing them to proactively manage their drivers’ conduct on the road, resulting in fewer accidents and fines.

Identifying and correcting poor driver behaviour is the first step to reducing a fleet’s risk, proactively increasing safety and reducing costs including fuel, maintenance, and accident-related costs. 

Fleet camera solutions, such as those supplied by MiX Telematics are managed by a team of professional video analysts who review triggered video footage to check how drivers are behaving on the road and to see whether the cameras are fully functional and not obstructed or tampered with.

Training elements can immediately be identified and corrected such as speeding, harsh braking and even excessive idling. This coaching and subsequent compliance or best practice will positively impact on fleet productivity and safety, but further contribute to the customer’s ‘image’ in the market related to business professionalism.

Development and future of telematics

Telematics data has, from the past, culminated into an online business intelligence platform. Telematics technology is improving the connectivity to people, organisations and processes. It also enables fleet operators to connect with drivers and gather various data, no matter where their vehicles are on the map.

Telematics has developed to allow businesses to use big data to spot trends and draw conclusions about asset utilisation, resulting in data-driver insights to save a very valuable commodity – time. MiX Telematics Africa has recently introduced an online business intelligence solution, which is designed to help fleet managers identify exactly what areas to focus on and which changes to make for immediate improvement.

Fleet camera systems have also advanced in recent years with the advent of live video streaming that allows for the monitoring of journey context in order to check on driver risk, and understand what possible traffic or road hazards the driver may be facing. It also gives the viewer access to monitor loading or unloading of valuable cargo items, as well as witness possible damages that may occur during the process allowing a line of accountability.

Modern telematics systems are evolving from simply a vehicle tracking tool to becoming a business management platform. For example, telematics systems in other industries track the usage of materials handling equipment allowing construction companies to invoice customers based on equipment usage per job site.

Telematics systems have also developed to allow logistics companies to dispatch loads and provide accurate estimated time of arrival (ETA) alerts to customers without any human intervention, further increasing all role players’ options in creating optimal efficiency.

In the future, telematics will shift even more to become a complete business management platform as the rich data it provides will increasingly be integrated into other software solutions and broader business operations. 

Click here to read the issue of Cold Link Africa 


 

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