| Written by Mark Buzinkay

In most ports, terminal automation largely focuses on container handling while individual containers are monitored manually. Monitoring is vital in keeping the temperature of perishable cargo at the proper levels. Still, it is very labour-intensive as the temperature setting and monitoring are often done manually.

In this post, we discuss six reasons to automate your reefer operations.

Reefer Management Automation

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1] Increase operational efficiency

Reefer monitoring systems are designed to record temperature data across the entire cold chain automatically. This eliminates manual records and creates a centralised and automated temperature logbook. This allows you to track and monitor your reefer shipments in real time, ensuring that your products are always kept at the correct temperature (learn more about reefer plugs).

Reefer management systems are essential for container terminals that manage perishable goods. By automatically documenting and tracking temperature data, you can be sure that your cargo will stay fresh and safe during transit. Reefer management systems also make compliance with food safety laws easy, as you always have accurate records of the temperatures your products were exposed to.

Additionally, with centralised management of monitored reefer alerts and notifications, your team has the power to direct attention to terminal needs more effectively.

2] Minimise temperature-related spoilage

Food spoilage is an acute problem in the global supply chain. A third of all food produced is lost or wasted, totalling more than $35 billion annually. Ineffective cold chain processes and management cause a considerable share of these global food losses.

Reefer management is a process of monitoring and maintaining the quality of perishable goods during transport. Reefer units keep goods at a specific temperature, usually cold, to extend their shelf life. Reefer management systems help by providing alerts that keep reefer units in optimal condition and log comprehensive temperature data. This data can be used to identify trends and potential issues, ultimately helping to improve the quality of transported goods.

Using a reefer management system, businesses can minimise the risk of spoilage due to temperature fluctuations or unit breakdowns. If you are responsible for transporting perishable goods, investing in a reefer monitoring system is essential to ensuring that these products arrive at their destination in the best possible condition. Reefer management is a complex process, but with the right tools and information, it can be effectively managed to help improve the quality and safety of transported goods.

Furthermore, reefer monitoring systems' comprehensive temperature data loggers provide actionable details regarding the container's temperature. That said, reefer management solutions not only read data from the reefer controller but also control it. So, for example, you can correct and set temperature zones properly from the remote without touching the reefer display.

Learn more about the concept of a reefer temperature monitoring device



3] Faster response in case of trouble

As food progresses through the various stages of the cold chain, keeping produce at optimum conditions becomes more challenging. Each step can lead to a potential change in state, which may significantly reduce the shelf life of the crop. In addition, fresh fruits and vegetables from diverse climates demand attention to safety. Due to their temperature sensitivity, fruits and vegetables make up around half of the food waste. If stored in a trailer with broken or inconsistent refrigeration, the quality and safety of the perishable goods can be compromised. If the product were over the required temperature for a certain amount of time, the entire shipment would be announced unsafe and documentation of destruction logged. This would likely cost a trucker's insurance company more than $100k.

The primary cause of temperature-related spoilage is reefer unit breakdown. However, monitoring systems can help protect against this unpredictable occurrence via automated alerts that keep reefer units in optimal condition.

Reaction time is vital in refrigerated shipping. Reefer management systems allow fast reaction times in case of reefer technical challenges like severe temperature changes. This enables crews to react appropriately to save the cargo.


4] Lack of labour

Lack of available labour and human errors often result in temperatures not staying at the required levels and fresh produce going to waste. In addition, since container terminal operators are held responsible for keeping the temperatures at the proper levels while on the terminal, they often see themselves facing claims.

The lack of labour sometimes originates from the lack of a skilled workforce (e.g. in a remote place) and sometimes from the lack of labour (e.g. in some western countries, to cover shifts 24/7). As refrigerated containers must be monitored constantly, you can automate monitoring to escape the problem of unavailable personnel for manual inspection.

5] Enables data-driven decision making

Automated, continuous temperature logging eliminates manual recordkeeping and makes it easy to provide temperature records on-demand. In addition, the data collected by these systems can be used to improve the overall efficiency of the transportation process.

Collected data can be integrated into your terminal operation system (TOS). Accurately incorporated data improves overall performance and enhances the bottom line. Automated reefer management that integrates with your existing TOS (e.g. Navis N4, Tideworks & Reefer Runner) makes this data collaboration easy.

In addition, data analytics for logistics can go a long way in improving shipping performance and customer satisfaction. Smart data and automated process integration are the fastest and easiest way to accomplish this. Imagine fleet managers who can integrate data from terminals, vessels, vehicles and personnel to manage and deploy assets more effectively.

With access to real-time freight data and up-to-the-minute reports and communications, shipping performance could be significantly enhanced.

6] Fast and fail-proof claim handling

According to international transport insurer TT Club, temperature-controlled cargo incidents have been one of the top causes of insurance claims in logistics over the past three years, with human error being the cause in most cases. In 29 per cent of the claims in the temperature-controlled supply chain, the problem arises because the responsible parties have not adequately passed on information to each other. In 24 per cent of the incidents, personnel incorrectly adjusted the temperature of the reefer equipment, and in 10 per cent of the damage in the cold chain, they failed to plug in the equipment. In a quarter of claims, the equipment is the problem as it has a defect or breaks down.

In cases like these, automated and complete documentation will help to reject unjustified claims easily. If you can't prove any wrongdoing, you may end up with a hefty invoice.


Reefer management is labour-intensive and error-prone. A remote reefer monitoring system not only improves efficiency and avoids spoiled cargo but enables you to respond faster to potential technical breakdowns, reject unjustified claims and upgrade your decision-making process with the input of reefer-generated data.

Contact us today if you are looking for a reefer management system to help you improve your cold chain.

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