Shaping a Resilient Future for Cold Chain Logistics Through Technology

by Mike Bhaskaran, Group Chief Operating Officer, Digital Technology, DP World

Speed, accuracy, and efficiency are paramount in today’s supply chains – and refrigerated cargo, otherwise known as cold chain logistics, is no exception.

Reliable and efficient logistics networks are crucial for all industries, but perhaps even more so for the likes of the pharmaceutical, food, and retail sectors. The management of perishable goods is entirely dependent on controlled environments as this precious cargo travels around the world, impacting and often guaranteeing the livelihoods of communities everywhere. With the advent of technology-enhanced
cold chain logistics, we are entering an era where this will become easier than ever.

In my current role, I have observed how technological innovations have redefined global supply chains. In this time of growing climate uncertainty and geopolitical unrest, leveraging such innovations to guarantee the safety, quality, and accessibility of these products could unlock opportunities not only for industry leaders but for citizens across the globe.

THE IMPERATIVE FOR ADVANCED COLD CHAIN SOLUTIONS

From extending the longevity of precious food resources to maintaining precise conditions for vaccines, the integrity of the cold chain relies on robust cold chain logistics. A sophisticated cold chain network involves synchronised refrigerated activities, equipment that can flex and scale to capacity demands, and coordinated logistics operations that can adapt to established and emerging markets. Any lapse in this chain can lead to significant economic losses or, in the worst-case scenario, health risks.

LEVERAGING CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY IN COLD CHAIN LOGISTICS

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Radio Frequency Identification Technologies (RFID) are transforming how we monitor conditions within shipping containers and storage areas in real-time. Armed with this critical data, we can maintain optimal temperature and humidity levels for perishables throughout their journey, regardless of their location in the world. We can even make real-time adjustments, reducing the likelihood of waste – particularly crucial during times of crisis.

In terms of the long-term environmental impact of cold chain logistics, technology is also game-changing, especially as we advocate for the Move to -15°C. This industry-wide sustainability initiative, originally launched by DP World at COP28, aims to raise the standard temperatures used in cold chain logistics by three degrees to save 17.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere every year. That’s equivalent to taking 3.8 million cars off the road.

THE POWER OF DATA

One of the key advantages of having data is its ability to provide insights and predictive capabilities. Instead of being bogged down by paperwork and supply chain blind spots from the past, we can now leverage cargo movement data to anticipate and prevent potential disruptions. By integrating more technology into our infrastructure and collecting more data, we can significantly enhance operational efficiency and lower costs for our customers, ultimately benefiting the end consumer.

MAKING NEXT-GEN LOGISTICS TODAY’S REALITY

The futuristic visions seen in sci-fi films are now within our reach due to the latest advancements in technological capabilities. Automated systems and robotics are becoming essential components of our warehouses, enabling us to create and maintain optimal environments for perishable goods. These technologies also enhance the accuracy and speed of our operations. In the field of humanitarian logistics, where there is an urgent need for food and medical supplies, the agility offered by automation is unparalleled.

Moreover, the sophistication of the technology available to us is transforming compliance standards across many perishable sectors. For instance, blockchain technology establishes a centralised and secure method for recording and executing transactions throughout the supply chain. This accountability resource is incredibly valuable, particularly for the pharmaceutical industry as they seek to build trust with partners in new markets.

ENSURING GROWTH THROUGH ACCESSIBILITY

When discussing new markets, the significant advantage of technological development that is often overlooked is accessibility. The digitalisation of logistics services and how people interact with them
is altering how businesses tap into new markets, and it’s even changing how new businesses enter global trade.

Platforms currently available are revolutionising the logistics landscape by using technology to enhance the accessibility of global trade, both for standard goods and cold chain products. They also showcase the scalability of technology. While achieving universal digitalisation will necessitate investment, there are smaller steps we can take to extend its benefits to all markets.

THE EVOLUTION IS JUST BEGINNING

Technology has rapidly transformed the cold chain logistics space in just a few short years. Looking ahead, it’s evident that the progress we’ve achieved so far is only the beginning. The integration of AI, machine learning, and potentially drone delivery technologies promises to further revolutionise cold chain logistics, improving delivery speeds, reducing human error, and enhancing overall supply chain management for the benefit of millions. The incorporation of these technology-enhanced solutions into logistics extends beyond simply adopting new tools; it involves creating a resilient, efficient, and transparent ecosystem that significantly enhances the reliability of transporting perishable goods.

By embracing these technological advancements, we not only meet the current demands of global commerce but also pave the way for a more sustainable and efficient future in cold chain logistics and beyond.

About the Author

Mike Bhaskaran
Group Chief Operating Officer Digital Technology
DP World

Mike Bhaskaran is the Group Chief Operating Officer, Digital Technology at DP World. He steers digital transformation across the company’s global operations guided by his extensive experience in blockchain, e-commerce technology, and digital innovation within complex supply chains. Mike effectively enhances business processes and systems implementation. He has also spearheaded technology infrastructure and software development at Amazon, The Gap Inc, Starbucks, and Beyond the Rack Inc. Mike holds a Master’s in Industrial Technology & Engineering from Utah State University and an MBA from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management.

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