Maersk Line, the world’s largest shipping company, has developed global IoT solutions with Ericsson that are making waves in the ocean cargo transport industry.
Maersk Line’s shipping containers are a common sight in ports around the world; the company operates in 343 ports across 121 countries. Back in 2012, the Danish giant teamed up with Ericsson to install real-time monitoring across its fleet with Ericsson’s mobile and satellite communication technology. Since then, the collaboration has gone beyond information about vessel operation, fuel consumption and electric conditions.
IoT is keeping Maersk cool
Maersk has around 300,000 refrigerated containers transporting fresh produce that needs to be kept chilled or frozen throughout its journey. Clearly, this is a logistical challenge of significant proportions, with many ships operating far out to sea and isolated from technical support in the event of a power failure.
Ericsson’s technology has allowed Maersk’s fleet of ‘reefers’ to transmit vital statistics via satellite, such as temperature, location and power supply. This information is loaded onto the cloud and analyzed back in the central office.
The Remote Container Management (RCM) system relies on three components: a GPS unit to track the ship’s whereabouts, a 3G SIM card capable of operating at high temperatures, and a GSM antenna.
IoT improving safety, efficiency and cargo care
Speaking exclusively to Internet of Business today, head of RCM at Maersk Line, Catja H. Rasmussen, outlined the ways that the Internet of Things (IoT) is helping to solve the problems Maersk faces with refrigerated shipments on a daily basis.
“Since we launched RCM in 2015 we have generated significant operational savings, matured our internal processes and gained operational experience in handling the data,” she said.
As well as offering real-time information as issues develop, the collaboration with Ericsson has also led to increased safety for port staff, as containers now require less manual inspection.
“Before RCM, all containers would go through extensive and costly pre-trip inspections (PTI) prior to release for export. These inspections would be performed whether actually required or not. We are now using the data made available through RCM to constantly analyze the running condition of the reefer and compare this with the expected condition.”
“At the end of each trip, RCM indicates the condition of the reefer – determining the type of inspection required prior to release for the next customer. If the reefer is running as expected, we now perform a quick visual inspection prior to release. Currently close to 60 percent of reefers only require visual inspection after a trip. This means reduced costs, faster turn times, better resource utilization and reduced CO2 emissions.”
But getting to this point hasn’t been easy. “Installing RCM devices on more than 270,000 reefers in constant motion around the world (installments are done during port stays – every year Maersk Line makes 46,000 port calls in 343 ports in 121 countries) is no easy task,” says Rasmussen. “Neither is structuring and operationalizing the huge amount of data they generate. We have a 5-year journey behind us. It provided a great deal of experience that we can leverage to build superior products.”
New opportunities emerging from Maersk’s IoT system
Rasmussen also points to the notion that RCM technology can be used to actively spot trends and catch faults before they happen, offering more than reactive support.
If we analyze the RCM data and combine with other in-house data, new opportunities emerge – e.g. preventative maintenance; preventative claim handling; and helping our customers avoid cargo damage,” she said. “A good example is a pilot we did, using the RCM technology to monitor the set point temperature of our reefers. If these temperatures deviate from the predefined thresholds in the system, we can determine from knowing the given commodity inside the extent of the problem and what action is required to avoid damage to the cargo from correcting the set points.”
“A good example is a pilot we did, using the RCM technology to monitor the set point temperature of our reefers. If these temperatures deviate from the predefined thresholds in the system, we can determine from knowing the given commodity inside the extent of the problem and what action is required to avoid damage to the cargo from correcting the set points.”
“Over 15 weeks, we were able to intervene in 180 instances. So, for 180 reefers we have been able to remotely change the set points to avoid what would likely have been a claim at a later stage.”
A reefer container can hold vast amounts of produce – around 100,000 bananas according to Rasmussen. That’s a lot of potential for moldy fruit.