Digitalization, a value for the future of cold

Digitalization: benefits for companies

We are more and more connected, and with us the technological solutions that supervise plants and processes. Starting from Internet of Things, more and more often Internet of Everythings will be a topical issue, term that describes a world where billions of objects are equipped with sensors to detect the measurement and to assess their status; all connected on public or private networks by using standard and proprietary protocols.

Billions of connected items, able to collect data that can be collected, analysed and turned into information and, afterwards, into services. It occurs in manifold sectors, it happens in refrigeration, too.

It so occurs that the digital transformation takes hold more and more, also in the refrigeration world. However, what does this imply? What potentialities and complexities does it provide for? We have tried giving answers, examples and food for thought to these questions in the course of the roundtable “Digitalization for the future of the cold chain” held at Refrigera.

Everything is connected: digitalization and changed requirements
The application of digital technologies, from IoT to Big Data Analytics, from the remote control to the predictive maintenance and up to the optimization of energy consumptions, represents one of the most interesting innovation branches in the cold chain in distribution ambit. However, they are not novelties under certain respects. «The remote monitoring of commercial refrigeration has existed at least since the early 2000s and it was accomplished with relatively simple electronic technologies», explains Vitali, Aftersales manager of Epta. What has changed is the technological evolution, the players at stake «and refrigeration plants’ and components’ higher requirements of being interfaced and of communicating more and more information –Vitali adds– Actually, the technological evolution pursues the product connectivity direction, which can provide more information and can connect safely with clouds or platforms of pure monitoring, in order to allow technical operators to manage at best, assessing, analysing and monitoring the operation and other useful information».

An example is given by Tetra Pak with its “Connected packages”. Released in 2019, today they exceed 2 billions, they are labelled with a single digital barcode, transforming packages into data vectors. This digitalization allows the end-to-end traceability for producers, higher transparency of the provisioning chain for resellers and the access to information for consumers.

The trend is becoming extreme: «If just few years ago the monitoring concerned the most important plants in remote of BOD and of logistics, today the requirement has emerged from customers that ask for the possibility of having more information about simpler products». An example is the typical mobile plug-in of food and beverage where it is necessary to evaluate basic parameters such as temperature, but also the geolocation, in other words the precise geographical place where a certain counter is installed, the opening number and still other. «Therefore, the product evolves, to be increasingly connected and to communicate more and more information, also those that seemed scarcely relevant shortly ago».

Digital transformation: the importance of data and of change management
When we can have data in real time, generated by devices, what can we do to carry out procedures and models that allow detecting data and intervening wherever necessary? «Given that today and in the future the data concept will be absolutely strategic, technology is important but it cannot set aside a purely organizational issue. The change management, that is to say the capability of managing and educating people to the change and to the use modality of the correct technology, determines the success or the failure of a project. For this reason, it is necessary that processes are measurable. Hence the importance of data», stated Sergio Scornavacca, industrial market manager and Nothern Italy lead of Minsait, international reality specialized in Digital Transformation and Information Technology.

«However, we do not need Big Data, but Value Data, in other words those that can make the difference». Concerning this, the concept of Real-Time Data Monitoring (RTDM) is exemplary. It is a process through which a manager can examine, assess and modify the addition, the cancellation, the modification and the use of data on a software, a database or a system. It allows data managers to review processes and overall functions performed on data in real time, or while it is happening, through charts and bars on a central interface/dashboard. «In this case, two categories of data gain importance: environmental data, regarding parameters like temperature or wetness, and transactional ones, those running along the cold chain ». Transactional data refer to the organization’s transactions and include the data that are captured, for instance, when a product is sold or bought. «The important aspect (of which we take care) is to succeed in analysing all of these data, thing enabled by techniques of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning. In the specific case of our company, we aid organizations to identify some programmes that can help them to manage these data better, aspect that is encompassed in the cybersecurity issue».

Digitalization: benefits for companiesThe challenges to be faced: cybersecurity and change of mentality
Here, then, the importance of the cybersecurity emerges, to avoid being victim of social engineering. So are defined all those techniques aimed at leading people to provide personal information, such as passwords or bank data, or at authorizing the access to a computer to install noxious software secretly. For this reason – it is worth restating it – data are important but even more the management strategies that lead the employees of a company to duly know these phenomena, so avoiding providing data to cyber criminals.

We should just consider the data highlighted by the last report by Clusit – Italian Cyber-security Association: in the first 2021-semester, serious attacks carried out for “Cybercrime” purposes, that is to say to extort money to victims, who today represent 88% of the total, increased by 21%. The losses estimated on a global scale owing to cybersecurity flaws amount to 6,000 billion dollars for 2021 and nowadays account for a significant percentage of the world GDP. The manufacturing sector witnessed the 46.9% rise of cyber-attacks. Even worse was the trend of the transportation and storage sectors, which are acquainted with logistics: here the increment scored +108.7%.

«We are witnessing a paradigm shift, where data are increasingly shifted towards the consumer side, because it creates value. For this reason, it is necessary to pay attention not only to data, but also to organization and processes », Scornavacca ends.

Hence the need of a change of managerial logics, but especially of a change of mentality inside companies, as highlighted Massimo Marciani, president Freight Leaders Council. The same body has undertaken various initiatives to point out the importance of data to assure quality to transport and logistics. In the field of refrigerated logistics is framed the partnership signed with OITA –Interdisciplinary Food Transport Observatory, the Freight Leaders Council (FLC) and the Interdisciplinary Food Transport Observatory, to study and to monitor the transport and logistics field of food. The target was clear: pooling knowledge of refrigerated transport and suggesting modal choices, technologies and optimal business models for the correct food transport.

«Considering that often the strongest hindrance to change is the resistance opposed within the company and by people linked with traditional schemes, the digital turning point imposes a rethinking of procedures and processes inside companies», Marciani affirmed.

From vertical to horizontal: the coordination need
Digitalization implies technological complexities. Let us essentially think of the various standards accomplished by companies, integrated into as various components: how to manage to systematize a plurality of distinct “items”? The example made by Mattia Nanetti, co-founder of Wenda and one of the speakers of the roundtable, is emblematic. In 2018, this former innovative start-up made the leap in quality after being incubated by Maersk and today it is proposed as collaborative platform able to manage, to analyse and to share in selected manner the supply chain data, working also for cold chain realities. «On the market, manifold specific vertical solutions are emerging for the single device. All that multiplies, having to deal with the various processes». Let us just think of the refrigerated logistics: from the warehouse to the transport and up to the delivery, we deal with various application software, which create a complex scenario. Therefore, it is useful to rely on coordinated solutions able to manage all applications, to collect data and to use them to monitor and assess in real time assets and processes, assuring the cold chain is protected and safe.

Digitalization: benefits for companies
A lot remains to do to bring digitalization to companies. As underlined by a report by the European Investment Bank (EIB) about digitalization (which collects information about around 13,500 enterprises in the 27 EU Countries, UK and USA) highlighting how the adoption of digital technologies by enterprises in the European Union is improving, but it has not filled the gap with the United States, yet. By 2020, 37% of EU enterprises had not adopted any advanced digital technology, versus 27% in the United States. There is also a risk of digital polarization among European enterprises. “Small enterprises, in particular, are creating this delay between European Union and United States”. Therefore, we have to work hard, anyway considering that not only final customers benefit from digitalization, but companies themselves that use it. Digitalized companies obtain an important cutting-edge in work productivity compared to companies that have not accomplished digital transformation paths, yet: in the case of Italian realities, they reach +64%, compared to 49% of European ones. As highlighted by a study by The European House Ambrosetti and Microsoft. Not only: the digitalization shares in a higher environmental sustainability. The same study has estimated that from 2020 to 2030, digital will share in reducing up to 10% of emissions in comparison with 2019-levels, every year knocking down a quantity amounting to 37 million tons of CO2. Digitalization will be also useful to hit the decarbonization targets also expressed by COP26, which aim – as known – at reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45% within 2030 versus the 2010-level and at neat zero around 2050.