Successful Reefer Container IoT Deployment Planning – Food for Thought
The last few years have witnessed significant growth in the deployment of IoT devices in the maritime refrigerated container segment, and since the emergence of Coronavirus, this activity has only accelerated. The idea of an IoT equipped “Smart Reefer” is a now reality and here to stay.
At the same time the maritime cargo market is undergoing a difficult time where demand is high, availability of equipment is scarce, and freight rates are at an all time high and continue to rise even higher. For shipping lines considering an IoT program in cold chain, the benefits are overwhelming, however the logistical task of equipping large reefer fleets in operation over large geographical areas during an all-time high demand, can be a daunting task if not planned properly.
Real-time and precise location along with new developments in smart pre trip inspection, big data and predictive analytics, the time for return on investment for the technology has never been more compelling. The digital transformation and trends toward transparency are here to stay. Early adopters of IoT will likely see significant competitive advantages, but how do you manage the pitfalls of deploying IoT devices in this climate?
It all starts with having a pragmatic and detailed plan for both existing fleets and new reefer orders where IoT devices can be installed in the factory. Any strategy of incorporating IoT device in new reefers containers should be on the top of the list. There is little doubt that the most cost efficient way to outfit fleets are during new build production either on the factory floor of the reefer manufacturer or at the container factory assembly during commissioning. Not only is this more efficient but it can result in cost savings and reduced reefer downtime.
The new build installations save you the trouble of finding and moving containers on which to install the IoT equipment. Also, new build installations, when properly done, can provide validity of data in a more timely and reliable fashion than retrofit field installations.
For existing fleets, mapping out key installation locations based trade lane analysis and on throughput is one of the fastest ways to outfit the entire fleet quickly. Working with depots and telematics vendors on installation timing is key to understanding the full scope of installation costs. While limiting the number of installation points, fully fleet deployments may take a bit longer, but the process becomes quite manageable.
Considerations for installations in the field are more complex and require understanding the following, and having a clear understanding for the answers to the following questions: Do the telematics providers or depot partners have the right team on the ground or provides the proper support to ensure a smooth installation process in the areas you have selected for installation?
Do the telematics operators have a foolproof way of installing its devices to avoid duplicate container IDs or improperly programmed controller IDs? Can the telematics providers validate GPS, Reefer data and cellular communications upon every installation in rapid fashion at dozens of locations globally? Sometimes limited access to clear sky can hinder 100% validation of proper installation.
Does your telematics provider have contingency plans when the installation location chosen has poor to non-existent cellular connectivity? For certain depots in remote areas or where cell signals may be impaired by container stacks can result in inefficiencies. Does your connectivity provider align with your commercial footprint? Both existing and future in order to make sure that its devices can connect where and when you need them to?
Once you feel comfortable with you chosen partners and installation plan, then you head toward planning rollout logistics and forecasting.
Other key considerations are what the maximum volume of installations that can be achieved by each depot per week?
What challenges are there for delivery of telematics equipment to your chosen sites such as Customs regulations and shipping barriers? Should certain installation sites have to be skipped until all the duties and taxation questions have been answered, and does the device has all the approvals for entry into the country of your choice? Logistics and cost of importing of IoT devices for installation can vary from country to country.
Does your telematics provider handle all the logistics shipments and installation monitoring, or do they wish to push the installations in your direction? Does your provider have tracking centralized tools to monitor many thousands of installations from multiple sites globally on a daily basis?
No IoT implementation is without risk and unforeseen issues, but by carefully considering the answers to these questions before you choose a telematics vendor and develop a pragmatic rollout strategy will not only save money but also provide a smooth path toward large-scale integration of the IoT devices into reefer fleets. Not doing so will only increase the risk of costly issues and delays which can occur at any time during the process.
We expect the maritime refrigerated container market to reach critical mass of installed telematics based by the end of 2023 with hundreds of thousands of devices deployed in that time. Understanding all the variables that go into a successful IoT deployment program is key to assure that deployment plans remain on time and on within budget, so that the many benefits of IoT can be realized.
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