How Virtual Twins Solve Cold Logistics Challenges

Technology advancements that go beyond simple digital capabilities now aid companies so they can better anticipate potential supply chain disruptions.

Dassault Systemes Juice Factory
Dassault Systemes

Few manufacturers experience more complexity than those in the cold food industry. Whether it’s frozen potpies, pre-packaged salads or the unpasteurized pomegranate juice, highly perishable items arrive at local retailers because of a purpose-built supply chain consisting of multiple coordinated layers and complex connections.

Cold food manufacturers must anticipate and plan for the many factors that might hamper the cold food delivery chain or face costly problems that could spoil their bottom line. Consider just some of these challenges:

-      Transportation breakdowns such as a refrigerated tractor-trailer carrying lettuce from Mexico.

-       Packaging manufacturing lines stop unexpectedly because of unexpected maintenance issues.

-       Farm suppliers cannot harvest crops as scheduled because a novel coronavirus sickens half the workforce.

Setbacks like these can lead to product shortages or shipping delays. Worse, they can mean spoiled food, causing shortages and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

Intelligence and visibility via platform-based virtual twin technology

Technology advancements that go beyond simple digital capabilities now aid companies so they can better anticipate potential supply chain disruptions. As disruptions occur, companies can respond in real-time by using a single business platform that leverages the virtual twin, simulation and artificial intelligence to maximize performance.

A “virtual twin” (not to be confused with disconnected digital twins) connects the entire extended enterprise of a supply chain – all functions and suppliers in real-time – while virtually modeling and simulating an object, process or system with continuous updates driven by real-world data. Powerful analytical and simulation tools applied to virtual twins also allow cold food manufacturers and their eco-system to model, anticipate and solve hundreds of potential scenarios, preparing them to make decisions faster when a drastic problem happens in the real world.

For instance, a pomegranate juice company can optimize operations by providing full visibility of its entire value network – from produce farmers and glass bottle suppliers to refrigerated cargo logistics providers. Groups responsible for internal functions such as manufacturing planners, product managers, purchasing and operations align with their extended enterprise of suppliers and partners in real-time to keep fresh juice in the hands of customers.

Virtual twins provide calm, cool way to solve cold logistics puzzles

Further, a major logistics affiliate can use a virtual twin approach to model and plan for several different constraints and processes, such as temperature integrity optimization and the loading and routing of multi-compartment, multi-temperature logistics assets.

By using a virtual twin to simulate and analyze nearly every possible option in the virtual world, the company can optimize loading and routing procedures to increase efficiency in logistics operations and better manage physical equipment in the real world. They also maximize the capacity of each modular multi-temperature compartment in trailers and plan deliveries more efficiently. Analyzing specific network constraints helps reduce empty miles, increase asset use and maintain cold chain integrity.

Routing managers must also navigate complex operations challenges like delivering food shipments in less-than-truckload (LTL) quantities to multiple small customers using small, multi-temperature shipments. Trucks do not deliver one kind of food to one retailer; instead, deliveries require mixed temperatures to accommodate multiple orders of dry, refrigerated or frozen foods going to separate stores. Temperature integrity loading requires accurate planning of dozens of different modular trailer configurations. Solving these logistics challenges in the virtual world significantly lessens the chance of costly losses and spoilage in the real world, helping a cold food logistics company better accommodate last-minute changes in demand and reduce the cost of disruptions.

Greater efficiency means higher profits and happier customers

Even with superior logistics, there is more to supply chain planning and optimization (SCP&O). Several external factors, including rising fuel prices, stringent safety regulations, port and transfer station slowdowns or closures and labor availability can also impact whether cold foods arrive as promised. How does a virtual twin help?

All companies strive to reduce fuel costs and their carbon footprint, which can start by sourcing locally and reducing logistics energy consumption. By connecting delivery vehicles with GPS tracking to an intelligent business platform – one that shares data with all other supply chain links – planners can route trucks to avoid traffic and find less expensive gas. A virtual twin provides greater supply chain visibility using simulation to anticipate and solve potential shipping problems, meaning planners and managers can redirect shipments or notify retail customers of a delay in real-time.

Meanwhile, longer term planning considerations, such as anticipating peak seasons, mean ice cream manufacturers must plan for ramp up well before summertime and eggnog producers must have the necessary raw goods and workforce ready to deliver for the holiday season. The virtual twin (and single business platform) increases forecast accuracy by analyzing buying trends, modeling historical equipment use, material waste and capacity, helping manufacturers optimize their planning strategies.

All businesses today rely on software systems to make planning decisions. However, the value of linking systems within your organization and your extended supply chain on one business platform means manufacturers, distributors and logistics providers all realize significant improvements and faster ROI. Is your company ready for the value of the virtual twin to solve your cold chain challenges?