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Royal Food Import Expects E-Seals Will Save It a King's Ransom
The food importer will soon begin using Savi Networks cargo container seals to track the location and temperature of products being transported from factories overseas to stores in the United States.
Mar 16, 2010—When imported goods are shipped from a seaport to regional hubs throughout the United States via rail, the timing of their arrival can be varied and unpredictable. The inability to accurately plan when products will arrive can cause added expense and delays for Royal Food Import, which imports private-label processed fruits, fish and vegetables packaged in Asia and South America, and supplies them to U.S. retailers.
So when the company began seeking a temperature-monitoring system for its containers in transit—to ensure temperature-sensitive products, such as pouches of peaches and pineapples, maintain a safe temperature threshold—it discovered that a single solution could solve both temperature and scheduling issues. What's more, the system could also provide container security, and allow customers to gain a real-time view into where their products were located.
"Initially," says Collin Tuthill, Royal Food Import's president, "we were hoping the system would provide the mechanism to monitor temperatures" of temperature-sensitive products during shipment. "But we found there were other benefits," he adds—namely, a locating system enabling the firm to better understand when and where freight arrives, and the ability to share that information with customers.
The solution, Savi Networks' SaviTrak, utilizes cargo container security seals with GPS technology to identify the locations of goods that the company imports. The system capable of monitoring temperatures, and sends location information, security status and sensor data to a Web-based server via a cellular connection.
Royal Food pays for goods when they arrive at a rail yard, immediately prior to taking custody of those products. Paying even one day before it is necessary to do so means funds are prematurely deducted from accounts, and ultimately costs the company money. The firm often pays a day or more before it anticipates a shipment will arrive at the rail yard at which it is unloaded and shipped to a distribution center, in order to ensure the order can be released and then picked up immediately upon arrival at that rail yard, and to avoid paying any demurrage costs as a result of the containers sitting at that site. By providing a locating system that would enable the firm to know its shipments' locations, payments can thus be made at the appropriate time, not unnecessarily early, or late enough to cause delays. "In the food business," Tuthill says, "we must be very careful to stay within our margins."
Royal Food began testing the system on shipments out of Thailand. It tested location, temperature and humidity functionality in 2009, as the containers were being imported by boat to the United States. Having proven to itself, in that test, that the technology works, the company soon plans to start attaching SaviTrak battery-powered LSE container seals to the doors of containers in China and Thailand. The seal slides onto the edge of the container door, says Neil Smith, Savi Networks' CEO, and has a built-in temperature and humidity sensor to monitor conditions within a container. It comes with a GPRS transponder and a GPS receiver, he adds, as well as a sensor to detect any movement of the seal after it has been locked, such as might occur if someone were to attempt to open the container.
When the seal is first attached, the manufacturer will enter its user name and password into an Internet-based PC to access the SaviTrak software. The plant will then input the container number, as well as the tag's ID number, which will link that container and tag, and also create an electronic manifest.
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