Travis Ross is senior technical account manager at EROAD, a New Zealand-based technology company focused on fleet management, safety and performance.

Since 2022 he has managed EROAD’s refrigerated asset management hardware and software as a service (SaaS) product portfolio, helping fleets achieve revenue goals, greater operational efficiency and compliance on a global scale. 

Long interested in cold chain logistics, Ross previously held roles with Golden State Food Group and FedEx Ground. Last month he was awarded the 2023 Global AI & Machine Learning Transformation Leader of the Year at the 11th Global Supply Chain Leaders Conference.

What are some of the emerging technologies transforming cold chain logistics?  

Cold chain logistics is a tough business, with staffing crunches, supply chain shortages, increased focus on quality standards and visibility of product. On top of that, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will always ensure food safety standards continue to evolve and never regress. 

Technologies making an impact in the industry are ones that are scalable to use in lean operations and have the most clear, immediate impact to an organization’s ROI. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics are two emerging technologies that come to mind: 

  1. AI used to determine internal product temperatures. We have shown over the years, carriers are throwing away less product and spending less dollars on labor costs around manual temperature probing. Both benefits significantly improve P&L lines for product loss, damage, and labor!
  2. AI used for predictive shutdown on refrigerated assets. We can quickly identify which of your assets are unhealthy and automate ticket creation for preventative maintenance. We can also identify which units are inefficient in their fuel consumption by dropping AI and Machine Learning (ML) models into the data.

What is trailer telematics and how can it provide benefits to cold/frozen food manufacturers, processors, and logistics providers?

The best way I can describe a good trailer telematics solution is like a warm blanket of tech protection over your reefer assets. The benefits are centered around consumable visibility of your operation, and the ability to make changes around four areas to easily realize ROI:

  • Fuel consumption.
  • Fleet utilization & maintenance cost reduction.
  • Lower product loss and damage.
  • Lower labor costs.

How is technology helping increase food safety? 

FSMA has shifted its focus from responding to foodborne illness to preventing it. When building a prevention plan, you need visibility into every touchpoint of the journey, and that is what these technologies are providing – full, transparent visibility into the cold chain. Ultimately, consumer demands to understand the safety of their food along the entire journey, from farm to table, is only going to grow.

What is the greatest challenge facing the temperature-controlled logistics industry? How can companies be proactive about finding solutions?

Labor and staffing challenges still resonate across North American (NA) shippers and carriers. Difficulties keeping tenured partners and flattening learning curves run deep across the industry. At the end of the day, delivering groceries on time and in good quality are the primary functions. Keeping folks around who enjoy doing that is critical. Cold chain technologies are making related jobs more enjoyable, taking away some of the tedious measures carriers have implemented over the years to show they are safely delivering goods.

The first step towards taking a proactive approach is for a company to be willing to peek behind the curtain of their operations. I understand some may not be in a position to do so, but the ones who have are typically pleasantly surprised at how quickly they can see and make changes, especially changes that save them thousands of dollars and bring in new business!

As a former transportation manager for a large North American brand – I get it! I had refused to lean into cold chain tech, but once I did, everything quickly changed for the better – not just operationally, but even my quality of life.

How do you see cold chain logistics and the technologies surrounding them changing over the next five years? 

It will be driven by visibility from the minute a refrigerated product enters any sort of refrigeration across the chain. I believe we will see application integrations that provide more opportunity for independent contractors to become a more visible part of the chain, which in turn will show they are “next-level” capable and lead to more business – the same model many carriers are conducting with shippers in North America today.

I also see those app integrations giving the last mile driver the ability to automatically share important temperature information, allowing for greater trust and a more productive delivery experience. 

AI in cold chain is relatively fresh (pun intended), but it is catching steam fast. We will continue to see businesses realize it is not overly difficult to adopt, and the payoff is huge!