Software and technology continues to push the limits of what’s possible seemingly every day. The supply chain is one place where this is especially evident.
Think about some of the innovations that could potentially alter the food supply chain for both consumers and industry in the near future, starting with driverless trucks.
In May, Freightliner tested its Inspiration commercial big rig on a Nevada highway. The truck uses GPS, radar and video cameras to achieve Level 3 autonomy, meaning the truck can drive itself when conditions are right. It requires a driver to be seated at the wheel to resume control if necessary. Operating the Inspiration in so-called Highway Pilot mode is similar to an autopilot system in an aircraft.
This technology offers multiple benefits. By allowing the driver to attend to other duties like scheduling drop-offs and pick-ups and other business, multi-tasking behavior is mitigated and safety is enhanced. Likewise, fuel economy can be dramatically improved with self-driving trucks.
Platooning, which is sometimes referred to as “road trains,” is boosted with Highway Pilot because the system is designed to maintain a safe following distance behind other vehicles and reduce passing. The system can use vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology to essentially lock on to the truck ahead to reduce the gap between the two vehicles to about 25 feet. This ‘sweet spot’ is where the advantages of aerodynamics are realized the most. A tight formation like this allows a three- to five-truck platoon to operate 5 to 6 percent more efficiently compared to driving solo. Better fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, less wear and tear on the vehicle—sounds like a big win.
At the same time, there are a handful of other exciting innovations related to the food supply chain. Internet-enabled smart refrigerators will tell people how much milk is left in the carton and add it to the shopping list. Shoppers wearing Google glasses in the grocery store get in-depth product info, including calorie and ingredients information, pay for their groceries electronically, and are on their way. Transportation and logistics operations are reaching new thresholds in productivity, visibility, collaboration, efficiency and safety with telematics, software solutions and technology tools, while precision farming in the agricultural sector is also paying huge dividends.
The secondary benefits with these innovations are profound. They include a reduction in food waste, better environmental stewardship and management of natural resources, and increased food safety and security to name a few.
Enjoy the read.