In my previous two articles, in the March and April issues, respectively, I gave insights on the need, the mindset required and the benefits of digitalising cold chain technical assets. As we near the 10th edition of the Food Chain conference, on May 31, my final article will focus on the skill-set essential for executing digital transformation in back-end refrigeration systems and for combining it with HVAC, lighting and other commercial appliances to harmonise their requirement, as per demand, and gain operational efficiency, in turn leading to savings in operational costs and energy bills.
We have many companies in the market offering to digitalise technical assets. Quite some of them have succeeded in incorporating HVAC systems, lighting and commercial appliances, but so far I have yet to see any company getting involved in the refrigeration systems of food retailers, though it’s quite possible that certain establishments are in the testing stages.
So, what are the basic skills and expertise required for digital transformation in the refrigeration domain? In my view, they should have thorough knowledge in refrigeration systems and controls/monitoring systems. Equally, they need to be digitally literate. Among these three, one cannot live without the other. Plus, just having expertise in one of these domains to carry out digitalisation will not do.
An individual or a company must be adept in Digital transformation in the refrigeration domain calls for a thorough knowledge in refrigeration systems and controls systems, along with digital literacy, says Raja Subramanyam all the three. Do we have enough of these skills in the region? We have seen quite a few organisations who are adept in mechanical systems and electronics but who are yet to make a mark in digitalisation. Why? For one, they are unable to yet convince the customer to take digital steps. Refrigeration being very sensitive in food sectors, especially in food retail, no owner wants to tinker with the existing system for the fear of losing food and business.
A lot of media awareness campaigns, in the forms of webinars and forum discussions, have been going on since last year on this subject, but so far they have not yet been transformed to tangible benefits.
Holistically, the route to success would be to:
1. Approach organisations who have the mindset to transform
2. Create awareness face-to-face at their physical locations and explain the tangible benefits, preferably in the plant room
3. Keep it simple, so that everyone in the hierarchy can understand. Let clients not be overwhelmed by your explanations.
4. Assure the client personnel that they would be adequately trained to handle the transformation
5. Ensure the product offerings are scalable
All of the above and more will come up for discussion with food retailers and those in other panels during Food Chain, which I will be chairing. On behalf of the organisers, CPI Industry, publishers of Climate Control Middle East magazine, I would like to invite you to this prestigious event. I urge you to pre-register at: http://foodchain-me.com/pre-registration/ and encourage your colleagues to do so, as well. Looking forward to a meaningful and productive discussion with you.
Raja Subramanyam is an independent cold chain consultant. He is the designated Chairperson of the 10th edition of Food Chain, on 31 May 2021 in Dubai. He may be contacted at email@example.com.