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June 11, 2024

Securing the Supply Chain for Food Service, Laboratory Research, and Vaccine Administration

Written by SmartSense | Food Safety, FSMA, Supply Chain, Vaccines, Data, Innovation, Healthcare

IoT-enabled Sensing-as-a-Service solutions offer valuable insights and automated, prescriptive workflows that empower employees to protect supply chain assets in real time. In this post, we examine three supply chain networks that clearly demonstrate the benefits of implementing a digitalized monitoring system: retail food service, laboratory research, and vaccine administration.

Food Service: Ensuring safety, quality, and supply with advanced traceability

farmer on a farm with a digital tablet

With the FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety taking effect in January 2026, food service companies must prepare now to ensure they can comply with the new food safety standards and regulations. Issues such as cross-contamination, allergen control, and ingredient traceability remain crucial to ensuring the health of both customers and revenues.

Only a Sensing-as-a-Service solution can provide the peace of mind that comes from knowing your inventory along every point in the supply chain is being monitored automatically, accurately, and continuously around the clock. In advance of a potential incident, sensors alert safety management teams of a temperature excursion so they can take immediate corrective action to prevent the potential onset of a foodborne illness outbreak. And as IoT-enabled devices continue to evolve more and more sophisticated capabilities, they can also bolster and improve inventory management overall, including issues beyond food safety, such as food quality, food waste, and seamless stocking of inventory.

Effective oversight of your supply chain is fundamental to ensuring that food products are stored, handled, and distributed under appropriate conditions and timelines to minimize product loss and maximize customer trust and satisfaction. As protocols for food safety and inventory management are standardized across the industry, both enterprises and consumers will reap the benefits—in safety, quality, pricing, and on-shelf availability.

To make the most of a Sensing-as-a-Service solution, food service enterprises should develop strategies and best practices, implement interoperable technology, and optimize inventory auditing, demand forecasting, and storage and rotation methods. In today’s global demand-driven supply networks, balancing supply and demand requires greater visibility into each significant transition in the flow of food — whether from farm to truck, freezer to refrigerator, or delivery van to a customer’s front door. Otherwise, inaccurate information between different points along the value chain creates delays and inefficiencies in production and distribution.

Now that the FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety will mandate increased visibility and transparency across the supply chain, demand-driven supply networks are more important than ever before. The key to success is cooperation. A high level of collaboration is necessary between regulators, technology vendors, manufacturers, distributors, logistics companies, and food retailers as the industry adopts the equipment and processes critical to supporting speedy and accurate traceability across the supply chain.

Laboratory Research: Protecting samples with IoT-enabled asset management

person reaching into a clinical research lab fridge

Research departments at universities, in the biotech sector, and within for-profit companies must always consider their level of risk exposure when engaging in studies that require condition-sensitive care of laboratory samples. Without digital asset monitoring in place, the costs associated with damage to cell cultures can exceed the direct loss of the samples themselves, including:

  • The cost of failing to realize potential scientific advancements
  • The time (often months or years) forfeited by researchers and product developers
  • The loss in quality of life to patients with no opportunity to experience the medical benefits


The expense associated with lab research disruption surpasses a simple dollar amount. In the case of medical products and potential advancement, the cost might be measured in lives.

For a good example of how easily these costs can accrue, in 2023, a janitor working at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) destroyed temperature-sensitive samples when he turned off a freezer holding 20 years of research. The result? RPI was forced to seek $1 million in damages from the cleaning company that employed him. If proper asset management had been in place, timely alerts could have prevented the incident.

In similar environments, such as fertility clinics or the transport of plasma, product loss incidents have had permanent damaging effects. Unlike a pharmaceutical medication or food product, reproductive material and human blood cannot simply be replaced. Protecting these products is critical for biomedical enterprises to deliver on their promises to their clients and patients.

To combat potential risks associated with asset failure, conditional control malfunction, and employee error, organizations with long-term studies and product development cycles can engage in the following best practices to ensure accurate, real-time guidance for staff handling critical materials:

  • Automation: Research and organize internal initiatives to automate asset optimization, laboratory compliance, and product safety. 
  • Task checklists: Remove gaps in workflow execution to contribute directly to improving employee productivity and accuracy, empowering frontline workers, and eliminating repetitive tasks. 
  • Interoperability: Initiate cross-functional programs to integrate the use of IoT, prescriptive analytics, AI, and machine learning to arm risk and safety managers with the proper insights they need to make intelligent equipment purchase decisions. 
  • Asset performance evaluation: Leverage asset scoring to determine optimal equipment make and model based on historical performance.
  • Predictive and prescriptive analytics: Transform equipment maintenance into a proactive, guided process instead of a calendar-based troubleshooting exercise.


Vaccine Administration: Addressing shortages with condition monitoring

bottles of RSV vaccine

Recent supply chain shortages of RSV vaccine are impacting the health care industry. In particular, heightened demand for infant RSV immunization has even required dose rationing. Given limited supplies, it is all the more crucial to prevent potential temperature excursions in the pharmaceutical supply chain that can lead to unnecessary waste, future supply shortages, and ineffective inoculation.

The RSV vaccine shortage is a timely example illustrating why health care organizations producing and handling condition-sensitive medications and vaccines must employ IoT-enabled monitoring solutions. A Sensing-as-a-Service solution enhances supply chain visibility by integrating IoT devices throughout the entire distribution network. Sensors can track the movement of vaccines from manufacturers to distribution centers and finally to health care providers and pharmacy retailers. Consequently, improved visibility of location, quantity, and condition helps identify bottlenecks and optimize the overall supply chain.

Real-time temperature and humidity monitoring offer the following benefits:

  • Documented proof of maintaining compliance standards
  • Crucial visibility for maintaining the supply and efficacy of pharmaceutical products
  • Condition data about humidity, temperature, gas, and pressure measurements
  • Real-time alerts when there is an anticipated problem
  • Prescriptive workflows providing corrective action to save inventory
  • Descriptive insights into equipment performance
  • Historical data analytics to identify trends and issues before they become critical
  • Peace of mind for health care leaders, knowing that product quality, safety, and compliance goals are being met

From warehouse to truck to refrigeration system, IoT-enabled supply chain monitoring can secure food service, laboratory research, and vaccine administration so that enterprises devoted to the health and well-being of their customers can successfully fulfill their missions.

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