How Connected Reusable Transport Packaging Can Transform Supply Chains
The benefits of reusable transport packaging (RTP) are significant. Plastic crates, bins, pallets, and other reusable items are designed to reduce waste, save money, and support more sustainable supply chains. In fact, RTP can cut solid waste by 86 percent over single-use packaging. Because it’s reused and not recycled (nor thrown away), RTP cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent. And half of shoppers say that produce displayed in reusable crates looks higher quality.
Connected RTP goes a step further by sharing information over IT networks. Here’s how:
Smart, connected reusable transport packaging includes integrated technology to communicate information wirelessly to companies that need to know about goods in transit. In some cases, connected RTP can even sense conditions. For example, connected RTP items can communicate where they’re located, how long they’ve been traveling, whether they’re full, and at what temperature they’re being maintained.
A retailer in Israel will soon manage more than 1 million connected, reusable crates delivering goods to 300 grocery stores. The goal is to monitor food through the supply chain to maximize freshness. Once empty, the crates are cleaned and sent back to farms and distribution hubs for re-use.
How to Enable Connected RTP
Connected RTP is achieved through different means:
With QR codes on packaging. When scanned, the codes can link to information about contents, shipper, destination, etc.
With radio frequency ID (RFID) tags. The radio tags are read using wireless, RFID scanners and communicate information like condition and location.
With Bluetooth tags. Using industry standards like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), RTP can include Bluetooth tags that communicate information over existing or installed Bluetooth infrastructure, including wireless access points, and are readable by standard smartphones.
When using BLE technology for connected RTP, low-cost technology is affixed to the RTP in what amounts to a printable sticker. The sticker includes a tiny computer, sensors, and a Bluetooth radio. It gets power from radio frequency energy in the air and communicates using standard wireless infrastructures that already exist today. The data sent by connected RTP is gathered in the cloud, where it’s monitored and analyzed to optimize supply chain efficiency.
Connected RTP in Action
Connected RTP can improve how goods are produced, distributed, and sold. Today, connected RTP is being used in various industries.
Farmers place vegetables in connected crates, which are then tracked and monitored from field to store to ensure freshness.
Pharmaceutical companies use connected RTP to track shipments of temperature-sensitive vaccines and other healthcare supplies.
Retailers fill connected RTP with everything from shoes to auto parts to manage stock and ensure products are delivered precisely where and when there’s consumer demand.
Across industries, the real-world benefits of connected RTP are many:
Connected RTP doesn’t get lost or misplaced.
Having already spent less to sustainably manufacture reusable transport packaging (it takes 64 percent less energy to make RTP than to make and recycle single-use packaging items), companies can protect their assets by tracking them online.
Connected RTP improves retail operations.
By knowing exactly where connected RTP has traveled and for how long, or when it arrived at a store and how long it’s been in inventory, companies can better manage first-in, first-out product flow to optimize shelf life. They can also identify supply chain bottlenecks and work to reduce the time it takes to get products from producer to store.
Connected RTP improves supply chain efficiency.
Connected RTP shines a light into the darkness of supply chains, where most companies can’t see what’s going on. A highly efficient, circular supply chain enabled by connected RTP can improve business performance while allowing companies to operate more sustainably.
Ultimately, connected RTP is a win for business — and a win for the environment.