How Cloud-based Cellular Location Untangles the Reusable Packaging Tracking Problem

November 19, 2021

It is no secret that reusable packaging methods offer many benefits for supply chains (and the planet). They offer high-level product protection, state-of-the-art ergonomic handholds, raw material cost savings and probably most important of them all, a lower carbon footprint. However, the management and visibility of these reusables is critical to guaranteeing that these rewards will be reaped.

Switching to reusable packaging has never become so important. Just 14% of plastic packaging that is collected is recycled globally. And due to intricacies in the recycling process, swaths of single-use plastic people attempt to recycle ultimately result in getting chucked in landfills. People are losing their patience with this energy-intensive process and are looking to other ways to be more sustainable.

Reusable packaging has become a popular alternative. This can be anything from a durable plastic container, a metal beer keg to a cargo crate. Its main purpose is to provide superior product protection, reduce inefficiency and waste, and most importantly, be reused. Businesses see the great potential that reusable packing holds and want to integrate it into their supply chains. However, keeping track of an asset that must be used repeatedly can be a complex and delicate process.

In this blog, we will discuss the importance of reusable packaging, why it requires asset tracking, and how cloud-based cellular location can ultimately provide an ideal solution.

Why Reusable Packaging is So Important

Using reusable packaging benefits supply chains across a variety of industries such as automotive, food and beverage, fast-moving consumer goods, retail, industrial, healthcare and more. Here are some of the advantages that reusable packaging brings.

Reduces Environmental Impact

Reusable packaging plays an important role in reducing the environmental impact of supply chains. It reduces the amount of solid waste that goes into landfills and the natural environment up to 86% due to the hundreds of single-use packaging items that are eliminated in the process. CO2 emissions are decreased by up to 60% as reusable packaging rids the need to remanufacture or recycle its single-use counterpart. Furthermore, the material reusable packaging is made from is entirely circular, meaning that at the end of its life cycle it can be properly recycled and used to produce new reusable items.

Reduces Operational Costs

Reusable packaging can significantly reduce costs along the supply chain. One way is that it improves storage space utilization by standardizing designs for efficient stacking, for packaging both empty and filled with product. This style of design also increases product protection during transit and handling. Additionally, reusable packaging can help eliminate nasty hazards such stapling, box cutting, or exposed nails that can result in injury.

Enhances Food Safety

Food safety would not be where it is today if it weren’t for reusable packaging. Billions of reusable packaging items, such as containers, bins, and trays are used to transport fresh foods safely from farm to the oven, and is still widely accepted as the safest mode of storage and transport to this day.

Why Track Reusable Packaging?

Transportation and logistics companies are more than aware of the various benefits that using reusable packaging brings for the product’s life cycle and the environment, not to mention the customer kudos of going “green.” Making the switch to more sustainable and durable packaging is a smart business decision. However, reusable packaging is not cheap, so companies need to ensure that their investment is properly monitored and protected, especially when the asset leaves the safety of the factory walls. The best way to do this is to track the asset’s location while it makes the journey from factory to customer destination and back to factory.

The Challenge

An issue arises because although there are various forms of asset tracking technologies that can give an accurate location, they each have defining limitations. Technologies such as W-Fi or BLE work best in confined areas or indoors, but would not be able to cover large spaces of land as the infrastructure would be too costly. GPS is the top contender for outdoor tracking; however, all visibility is practically lost when there is obstruction to the satellite, which often occurs when moving through densely populated urban areas.

Some companies have tried a hybrid approach, integrating multiple location solutions into one tracking system. For example, a lorry carrying metal pallets with IoT asset tracking devices attached that switch from BLE when in the factory to GPS when on the road. By nature, these compounded mixtures increase operation costs and deployment complexity.

The crucial factor in all of this is the undeniable ROI in using the same IoT asset tracking device for the packaging’s outward journey containing the product, and for the return journey just with the empty packaging. This would make sense especially for packaging of high-value or delicate goods that require sturdy packaging with a clear reuse value, as opposed to the lower ROI on tracking cheaper packaging for lower value items.

Companies are thus forced to settle with either limited visibility, or strained resources, making the asset tracking experience for reusable packaging difficult.

The Solution

The best contender for tracking reusable packaging is cloud-based cellular location. By simply leveraging existing cellular infrastructure and connecting to a secure cloud system, customers get accurate visibility indoors and outdoors of their assets wherever they roam. With the incorporation of IoT asset trackers powered by cloud-based cellular location technology, reusable packaging becomes an enhanced platform not only for precise location but with load, temperature, and inventory visibility, giving businesses the essential data required to become more efficient and minimize waste. In a critical case where certain foods or chemicals need to keep at a certain temperature constantly, receiving regular feedback about the product’s environment is paramount. With the device only requiring a single cellular radio to provide cloud-based cellular location, and with computation offloaded to the cloud, the IoT asset tracking device inherently becomes smaller, less expensive and more power efficient – making it a more viable form factor for tracking reusable packaging.

With the world population now nearly 8 billion people, integrating the use of reusable packaging across our supply chains is not a choice, it is necessary. However, in order to fully benefit from what it stands to offer, transportation and logistics companies must adequately manage, and thus track, reusable packaging indoors and outdoors globally at an accessible power consumption and cost. Cloud-based cellular location, provided by Polte, will offer operational and business capabilities that other location solutions cannot by providing the efficiencies and agility needed to deliver.

For more blogs like “How Cloud-based Cellular Location Untangles Reusable Packaging Tracking,” keep checking our Blogs page here. To learn more about how Polte can leverage 4G/5G cellular networks to track what’s most important to you indoors and out around the world, send us a form here.

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