The whole fresh produce supply chain is under pressure due to inflation in energy, production, and labor costs, and food waste has long been a topic of discussion. Can technology help retailers to deliver fresher produce for consumers while also reducing their costs?
IMS Evolve has been in the business of integrating transformative IoT solutions in stores and across the supply chain for 20 years. “Keeping produce at the right temperature is a major expenditure for a retailer, at IMS Evolve, we offer real-time monitoring and management of refrigeration systems to make sure they are compliant, optimized, and encompass external factors such as weather conditions, stocking levels, and energy consumption while concentrating on quality,” explains Jason Kay, CCO at IMS Evolve.
“Not only can our technology intervene automatically and take corrective actions on machines showing signs of faults or failures, we ensure that if human intervention is required, the right people are notified in real-time.”
Retailers traditionally have one chilling regime for fresh produce, meat, and frozen goods which results in a lot of unnecessary over cooling. Jason said that up to 17 different regimes have the potential to be introduced for maximum efficiency, only cooling products to the temperatures which are required.
“Over cooling in fresh produce leads to drying out, shortening the shelf life and compromises the quality and appearance, as well as consuming a significant amount of unnecessary energy. There is so much pressure in the food supply chain to reduce food waste and loss of product and energy inflation is forcing people to look closer at ways of reducing consumption while maintaining product quality.”
Food storage amounts to a large proportion of retailers’ costs, and energy costs could increase by 200%-300% in the coming year. Working with one major UK retailer, IMS Evolve introduced seven different cooling levels saving around 100,000 degrees of overcooling per year.
“It has been a time of major disruption due to Covid, but things are now getting back to normal, and we are focussing on the supply chain in a phase of renewed vigor on operational costs. Systems used to control refrigeration are often old-fashioned, and new technology can innovate how this is done, allowing for retailers to move quickly and focus on digital innovation.”
The question always asked is, what is the ROI on the installation of this new tech?
“A controls agnostic approach means that renewing all of the fridges and freezers in store to implement this technology is not necessary. Essentially, the technology has the capability to sit on top of all existing machines, old and new, and extract the raw data. It can also just be a matter of linking a few different systems together, such as weather data, maintenance management systems, or using power at off-peak times, etc.
“We aim at an ROI in one year. However, in some instances where the tech can be deployed remotely, the ROI can be a matter of weeks. We are always sensitive to a company’s business model and work out the best possible strategy for them, working alongside them to achieve their goals.”
Although IMS Evolve has worked mainly with retailers in the past, the technology can be implemented into smaller companies to make them more energy efficient. The solutions can be used in cold storage and warehouses, too, leveraging the data management to prove compliance and also to help secure future funding.