Digitisation is critical for the future of a successful cold chain


There is a growing need for the digitisation of freight transactions to provide supply chain visibility and improve freight management.

Producers and manufacturers lose visibility of their product as soon as it goes into the back of a truck, and from there they have no idea how the product is kept, distributed, or stored.

As an example, manufacturers and producers have no idea if the product sits on a loading dock outside of its core temperature, or for how long.

A solution to the issue around traceability can be provided through real-time visibility and interoperability of systems. This means if there is a breach in the cold chain, stakeholders are alerted, and decisions can be made quickly to re-route the produce to another temperature-controlled room so transport providers can ensure the cold chain integrity is upheld while shelf life is kept to the optimum.

Chain of custody

At a recent National GS1 Traceability Advisory Group (NGTAG) industry event in October of 2021, Professor Pierre Pienaar, president of World Packaging Organization, said a singular ownership over temperature was needed.

“Multiple ownership of temperature ​can lead to lack of temperature control and avoidance of responsibility​. With single ownership of temperature there is a clear responsibility,” he said.

“If food is stored and transported at correct temperatures, ​losses are reduced and shelf life achieved​.”

There is an opportunity for temperature management, which means the value of data loggers and temperature loggers, or sensors, are being realised.

Uniquely identifying the sensor and the pallet, or logistics unit, using GS1 data standards and temperature control can be linked to the products’ specifications, allowing conditions to be measured, documented, and analysed throughout the supply chain.

This action links the information to the physical movement of the goods and allows critical decisions to be made to re-direct and reduce food waste if a breach occurs.

Meanwhile, in track and trace systems, with the use of global data standards and sensors, a link to a product batch, pack date, tertiary packaging, outer packaging, or logistics unit, can be made.

Care must also be taken to enable temperature tracking to be maintained if the logistics unit is broken down and the outer packaging is aggregated into another logistics unit.


The Cherry Project

 A trial is currently under way to assess a digital traceability system’s ability to help manage food supply chains in natural disasters, or biosecurity and food safety breaches.

The project is a collaboration between the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Food Agility CRC, Woolworths, FreshChain Systems, GS1 Australia and Cherry Growers Australia.

In the 2019 bushfires, regulators needed immediate information about which agricultural properties were threatened, and where food was in the supply chain.

It took time to collate that information, and in an emergency, time is critical.

The tested technology allows regulators and retailers to access information about farms and what they are growing, as well as real-time data about where products are in the supply chain.

Knowing which property grows what, and having information flow electronically through the supply chain, improves response time and efficiency.

Using unique global property identification and linking to property master data via the National Location Registry (NLR), GS1 hopes to reduce the time it takes to identify the property and product in the event of a natural disaster, biosecurity incursion or food safety breach.

By monitoring the cold supply chain using GS1 standards, as well as data carriers and property master data, the company can demonstrate that it can link the actual punnet of cherries to a particular cherry orchard for traceability.

Other outcomes GS1 is expecting to report on includes greater consumer protection, a reduction in unnecessary recalls and an improved supply chain.

The report will be released in September 2022.

Importance of NRL

The implementation of the Global Location Number (GLN) in Australia is also supported by the National Location Registry (NLR), a central registry of location master data that allows for the creation, validation and syndication of key information related to properties and facilities across industry and government.

The registry has been developed by GS1 Australia, with funding support from the Commonwealth, and is supported as an industry solution on a not-for-profit basis.

Some data attributes that can be provided for each location record includes trading or operating hours for peak periods, safety constraints on site, driver amenities, and weight and height distributions.

GS1 is exploring alternative ways to use the NLR to understand government and industry requirements for a location master data registry and for different uses like traceability, emergency response, property identification and recalls due to foodborne outbreaks and biosecurity incursions.


Location information data

The current methods for the identification of properties and location data are industry, state, and territory case-specific, with large duplication, and inefficiency.

There is also highly isolated data, the prevalence of proprietary systems and high levels of information asymmetry.

This leads to heavy regulation to control risk in the absence of consistent industry-wide data on property location, usage, and production activity.

GS1 aims to ensure that location data is accessible to a network of service providers to avoid duplication of record sets, silos and to enable businesses to adapt with agility.

Without data standards or unique and global location identification, there is an inability to respond to major shocks or incidents.

The GS1 standard for the identification of locations allows traceability partners to define both where things have been observed, the critical tracking event that has taken, and who has been involved in, or responsible for, transactions through the chain of custody.

GS1 GLNs, therefore, provide a means for companies to meet the traceability objectives defined in food safety and quality standards for food safety systems such as Freshcare, HARPs, SQF and GLOBALG.A.P., while future proofing themselves to be interoperable and scalable for existing and planned traceability systems.

The GS1 system has already been implemented both in Australia and globally and may be expanded to not only avoid disruptions but also enhance the interoperability of existing and planned traceability systems.

During the recent industry traceability pilots and initiatives, it was seen that the greatest benefits to growers and retailers were those that used GS1 enabled traceability solutions to provide the best path to interoperability, protect companies’ investments and enable them to scale up.

Each trading partner in the chain became free to choose the solution on the market that best met its specific needs.

GS1 provides the global and common language for traceability solutions and the ecosystem for its implementation.

Establishing GLNs and common data standards will create the foundation for traceability that allows supply chain partners to adopt and leverage digitally enabled technologies, enable data sharing, and introduce approaches which reduce the time it takes to identify the origin of a contaminated food tied to a recall and/or outbreak.

This will also create the transparency needed to anticipate and help prevent supply chain disruptions and will support interoperability across a variety of technology solutions.

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