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Reefer Monitoring: Tagging along after digitalisation

Jordi Asensio Carbo
Posted by Jordi Asensio Carbo on Mar 6, 2018 10:37:00 AM

When starting its business over 150 years ago, the C. Steinweg Group committed itself to providing the best possible service quality. As we fast forward to present times, an increasing number of valuable goods travelling worldwide inside containers needs to be managed more efficiently.

As such, the company has opted for digitising its reefer container management to maintain the proud over century-long legacy of first-rate performance. Consequently, a hi-tech monitoring system, developed by IDENTEC SOLUTIONS, has come online at the Group’s multipurpose Süd-West Terminal operating in the Port of Hamburg.

While the digital revolution has already changed how the majority of modern industries operate, among other things, automating a substantial portion of the work, when it comes to container management many processes are still carried out manually. Moreover, there are at least three additional things that distinguish taking care of refrigerated containers from their standard counterparts: connecting/disconnecting them to/from the power supply, as well as carrying out scheduled monitoring.

Traditionally, the terminal’s staff needs to check the reefers at specific intervals of between four and 12 hours. The checklist includes operation testing and manual recording of temperature, humidity, and various other parameters.
This time-consuming process can nowadays be fully replaced by automated systems, like the Reefer Runner System from IDENTEC SOLUTIONS.

The system, once the container is at the terminal, will assign the upcoming tasks, such as connecting or disconnecting the reefers, to the staff, but maybe more importantly – it will automatically monitor the boxes. During the whole stay of the container at the terminal, the system will record, notify and process all the data in real-time in close coordination with the terminal management.

No more manual monitoring thanks to Data automation

Since the end of 2016, every reefer coming to C. Steinweg’s facility in Hamburg has been equipped with a wireless monitoring device. This tag is fixed magnetically and produces an automatic link to the container’s controller.

“We are happy to say that the Reefer Runner System is compatible with all current models of reefer containers from manufacturers such as Daikin, Carrier, Starcool or Thermoking. Unlike the usual power-line modem solutions, this system is completely independent,” Stephan Piworus, Global Vice President Sales for Ports & Terminals, IDENTEC SOLUTIONS Germany, noted.

Once connected to the container, the tag constantly and immediately forwards relevant reefer data to the terminal operating system (TOS) by using a radio signal. In case of any discrepancy, an automatic alarm signal is generated, allowing for a prompt response. Linking the containers to the TOS has enabled the reefers processes to integrate fully into the terminal’s operations. While the tag is removed when the container leaves the terminal, the recorded data remain archived and can be retrieved later in the event of enquiries or insurance cases.

“The use of the Reefer Runner facilitates substantially the reduction of labour-intensive manual monitoring as well as the need for documentation,” Piworus explained and further added, “Manual data input becomes unnecessary, virtually eliminating any risk of errors in data recording. C. Steinweg not only has a continuous record of the status of any reefer during their stay, but with the cargo being checked uninterruptedly also raises customer satisfaction and safety.”

Good return on investment within the first year

Since the installation of Reefer Runner about one year ago, the system has been running steadily without any failure whatsoever. This service improvement has already paid off for C. Steinweg by attracting three new container customers without additional personnel expenses. However, as the company’s client base grew, the operations at the Süd-West Terminal had to be tweaked in order to manage smoothly the increasing number of reefers.

“We gave special attention to how to organize an optimal service for reefer containers,” Rainer Fabian, Managing Director of C. Steinweg (Süd-West Terminal), said. “Automated high-frequency data collection enables us to guarantee maximum safety and security for sensitive reefer cargoes. Instead of going unnoticed, defective reefer aggregates or discontinuation of power supply are quickly reported and can be rectified immediately. Our trained expert staff looks after handling, connection and settings of reefer containers,” he added.

The efficiency of the system and the reduction in manual labour have already given a good return within the first year. In the coming months, C. Steinweg is going to expand the Reefer Runner System by adding a new software module for energy monitoring. The add-on will be able to determine the reefers’ electricity consumption without the necessity of adding even a single extra device.

Reefer Runner is the first system of this kind to be installed at the Port of Hamburg. However, because the solution is customisable to fit a business of any size and scale, and thanks to various modules that can be individually combined, a number of companies across the world have incorporated it to boost their processes. This includes such distinct markets as the Netherlands, the US, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Argentina, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Colombia. Furthermore, Reefer Runner has been successfully installed on board an inland waterways vessel and was also tested on a container ship during a pilot.

Topics: Press Releases

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