Coles digitalises supply chain with world first Internet of Things solution

Aussie supermarket giant Coles has digitalised its supply chain with Internet of Things (IoT) tech, deploying a solution from Loscam and Thinxtra to monitor the location of and measure shock for 4,500 smart food bins moving poultry between farms and its distribution centre.

Coles last year announced a major digital transformation strategy, which includes increasing the resilience of its critical supply chains, such as the Protein Cold Chain, responsible for sourcing and stocking poultry. The main objective of this strategy was to reduce the number of food bins it loses, understand whether and where these assets are being damaged, improve pooling of equipment for transit, and ultimately increase stock turnaround.

Why did Coles adopt the IoT solution?

Following a competitive tender, Coles partnered with Loscam, which was the only company to propose an innovative IoT solution. Coles subsequently deployed 4,500 smart and foldable food bins manufactured by Loscam, and fitted these with Internet-connected devices. The devices communicate location data in real time using Thinxtra’s national, public 0G Network.

This information is available to the supermarket via LoscamOnline, a specialised tracking platform. The IoT solution has enabled a connected and transparent supply chain with timely insights into geolocation, geofencing, shock impact events, temperature, and bin status, and allows Coles to optimise transport routes and equipment pooling based on usage patterns.

The ability to monitor asset performance, including temperature levels, creates assurance for the quality of food. This plays a major role in eliminating waste, and helps Coles maintain safe conditions during transit with the lowest possible energy consumption to support its ESG objectives. The combination of foldable food bins and IoT tech reduces the cost of the asset pool required by 25%, tripling the amount of empty bins returned, reducing cost and waste.

Commenting on the solution, Larry Kavanagh, General Manager National Meat Processing, Coles said, “The smart food bins ensure that we can track the poultry from the moment they are loaded by our suppliers at farms, right through to the time they reach our distribution centre, reinforcing our food safety standards, while saving time and minimising waste.”

“We partnered with Loscam to deploy a purpose-built device and portal system with Thinxtra connectivity, tailored to the specific needs of our Protein Cold Chain department, giving us full visibility into our supply chain operations in real time. This is a crucial step to retain our customer-focused, quality-driven service that’s reflected in our supermarkets,” Larry said.

Why did Coles select Loscam and Thinxtra?

Loscam and Thinxtra’s IoT solution provides data for each individual smart food bin, rather than just the trucks transporting them. Coles can therefore view the location of each individual asset in transit, and receives alerts when food bins aren’t where they should be and any time there is an impact, including when bins are mishandled. This reduces unnecessary damages and creates accountability for stock quality supported by reliable real-time data.

Coles selected Loscam as the company’s solution proved more innovative and cost-effective than competing tracking. The IoT tech is fast and simple to install, and does not require up-front infrastructure setup investment. The devices are also battery-powered, with a life of up to five years, giving them the ability to operate independently of any power source.

Daniel Bunnett, Executive Vice President A/NZ at Loscam, said, “Historical location device solutions fell well short of market expectations and needs. With a complex large-scale firm like Coles, IoT has introduced the capabilities of asset management beyond traditional RFID or GPS tracking, with sensors that can provide insights to optimise logistical operations.”

Daniel Bunnett, Executive Vice President A/NZ at Loscam

“Powered by the national Thinxtra 0G Network, our Internet of Technology devices give Coles a sustainable, more efficient way of transporting perishable poultry produce, and managing its returnable industrial packaging, all while reducing resource waste,” Bunnett further said.

Nicholas Lambrou, Chief Executive Officer of Thinxtra, commented, “Coles, as an iconic Australian brand, has been able to deploy Internet of Things technology to achieve economic viability and operational scalability through streamlining its critical supply chain operations.”

“The IoT-powered smart food bins give full traceability of quality assurance and efficiency within the protein cold chain, all the while saving Coles business costs by avoiding unnecessary damages and better pooling equipment for transport,” Lambrou concluded.