Being a shipper of fresh and frozen food is not without risk. H&M Bay, a less-than-truckload (LTL) consolidation and freight brokerage company, ships hundreds of loads a week among eight shipping zones in the US. “We’re financially responsible for any shipments that do not arrive within the correct temperature range,” said Joe Ketterman, risk manager for H&M Bay. “Since some shipments can be of high value, there is tremendous financial risk if something goes wrong. To minimize this risk, we needed a reliable way to ensure the cargo remains within the designated temperature ranges.”
Ensuring freight is stored at the correct temperature isn’t as easy as setting a thermostat on the truck and walking away. A variety of factors come into play. An operator might set the refrigeration unit at a different temperature from what the bill of lading indicates. A typical scenario is that a driver may not realize they are transporting a frozen shipment and instead set the temperature for a fresh load or vice versa.
In addition, ambient temperatures have a significant impact upon interior storage conditions. The hotter it is outside, the harder a refrigeration unit has to work. And the more energy a refrigeration unit uses, the harder it is to maintain constant storage temperatures over extended periods of time.
“Since it is not uncommon for deliveries to travel across multiple regions with different weather conditions, maintaining storage temperatures within a designated range can be a challenge,” said Ketterman.
An additional challenge is the fact that as a broker, H&M Bay doesn’t own the trucks transporting its shipments and contracts with a nationwide network of independent truckers. This network was unable to provide access to truck satellite data or enable the tracking of in-transit shipments in real time. Because its customers would often contact H&M Bay for shipping updates, the company needed an accurate way to track some shipments.
Solution: real-time temperature trackers
H&M Bay had a need to track temperatures in real-time and turned to Emerson’s GO real-time trackers and is now using GO real-time Lux trackers at all its consolidation facilities in the US. Data from the trackers is integrated into H&M Bay’s transportation management system (TMS), so internal stakeholders can access temperature and location information at any time. The tracker enables H & M Bay Inc. to track product temperatures throughout shipping, always know where the shipment is, and detect unauthorized access to its perishable cargo.
Integrating cold chain data into a single TMS
With Emerson’s Oversight portal, customers can download and view critical shipment data. However, H&M Bay wanted to use its own TMS to store and view this information. With Emerson’s Electronic Data Integration solution, data stored on the Oversight portal is transferred automatically to H&M Bay’s TMS.
Data collected from the GO real-time trackers automatically syncs with H&M Bay’s existing TMS, providing real-time critical shipment monitoring information. This allows H&M Bay to track all their shipment information from one dashboard and easily distribute critical data and alerts.
H&M Bay’s TMS automatically downloads tracker data every 15 minutes and compares these readings with the required temperatures for the shipments. If there is a deviation between what the temperature is supposed to be and what it is, the TMS alerts H&M Bay Inc. to correct the temperature setting.
“By comparing this data, we know right away if there is a temperature discrepancy,” said John Walker, H&M Bay’s IT director. “Having this data early on lets us alert the driver to correct the temperature setting before it affects the quality of the shipment. And since we can receive this information directly to our TMS, we can manage everything from our preferred platform without duplicate work.”
“We have experienced a variety of benefits by using the GO real-time Lux trackers,” said Ketterman. These include:
- Reduced spoiled shipments. Shipments can be monitored, and drivers receive an alert when a storage temperature drops outside the desired range. By responding to temperature anomalies quickly, they have reduced the number of spoiled shipments and the financial liability of customer claims.
- Responded quickly to mechanical failures. Should a tracker identify a rapidly rising temperature, it could indicate a malfunction on the refrigeration unit. H&M Bay can contact the driver to alert them of the issue and respond quickly to transfer the shipment to another truck before the freight is compromised.
- Reduced insurance costs. H&M Bay has also experienced lower insurance premiums as a result of using the trackers. Not only do the trackers reduce the potential for claims, but they can also lead to faster recovery of a stolen load.
The trackers ensure shipments are stored at the temperature, saving the company thousands of dollars in lost product and claim reimbursements. “Product quality is important to our customers and us,” said Ketterman. “Having real-time temperature data not only gives us the accurate data we need to respond to customer disputes. But by keeping freight at the right temperature, we can avoid claims in the first place.”