May 1, 2014

Shipping Containers: A Monitoring Solution for your Problems

Written by Chris Monaco | Supply Chain

Over the past four weeks we’ve taken a look at the commercial components and critical challenges that the shipping industry faces, specifically the movement of containers in and out of ports around the world. While some companies, freight forwarders and consignees, have tried to implement their own incomplete electronic monitoring systems, many continue to run a manually operated, 20th century shipping operation, relying on designated checkpoints, human observation, and above all, trust of other parties.


Regardless of the method, continuing to safeguard billions of dollars worth of assets with so many opportunities for lapses and mistakes is unnecessary and avoidable, but most firms have no idea about the autonomous, cloud-based monitoring solutions currently available to them.


Furthermore, most companies would like to employ a system that yields a high ROI while offering a comprehensive alternative to whatever mode they are currently utilizing. After all, treating the symptoms of problematic container shipments doesn’t provide the same long-term value as addressing the source of their existence—uncertainty—does. An analogous and completely superfluous yet superb example is the underlying premise of the movie What About Bob?, that Bob’s doctor refuses to acknowledge and treat his patient’s true infirmity, loneliness.


Now before all my readers jump ship (see what I did there?), let’s look at a wireless system that will make tracking containers and monitoring their internal environments easier and less costly than a fingers-crossed, human-based approach. Utilizing a globally available cellular network, SmartSense’s cellular gateway and wireless data loggers can provide real-time information on a container’s location, ambient temperature, humidity level, and, if flooding is a concern, dryness or lack there of.


Up to 25 sensors can communicate with 1 cellular gateway, and with a battery that lasts for 5 years, sensors can survive absurdly excruciating cold (-40ºC) and extremely intolerable heat (200ºC), transmitting information to the cellular gateway every 5 minutes if needed. All reports and data notifications are saved in the SmartSense Dashboard, allowing companies to access them wherever and whenever, which is quite a benefit when compliance is a concern.


But what are the installation requirements of the system you may ask? Though the cellular gateway, due to its AC adapter power source, would remain stationary on a ship’s bridge or in a port’s office, the sensor, mounted to the inside of a container’s ribbed wall using screws, could roam free, and all that would be needed to transmit the device’s signal and data beyond a fairly thick metal shell would be a small, putty-filled hole. And as you’ll notice below, there is more than enough space for the sensors's 5” x 2.5” x 1.5” dimensions, even when a container is brimful.


A cellular/sensor system with the SmartSense Dashboard is SmartSense’s best and most comprehensive answer to your container woes, but if access to power and an internet connection isn’t a concern and running a decentralized mesh versus a centralized star network is more preferable, then you could consider SmartSense's wi-fi option for your monitoring needs, and it is encouraged that you bolster this second option with the dashboard service as well.


In the end, with so much value at risk and so many opportunities for a stressful and disastrous importation or exportation experience, any and all stake-holding firms should refrain from improvised reactions and corrections and consider investing in an actual solution to their oft-occurring problems. That’s what Bob did.

Topics: Supply Chain

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