Central kitchens run by public and private-sector stakeholders find it difficult to ascertain what happens to food during transport. RISE has joined together with insulated transport cabinet manufacturer ScanBox to develop a digital solution that makes it possible to identify sources of error and ensure optimised food handling.
“Food handling in commercial kitchens is closely managed for as long as the work is conducted in the kitchen itself. The same can be said of serving kitchens, which are careful to take samples of the food. What happens to the food during transportation between these two points is however less well managed and appears to take place with very little assigned responsibility.”
So says, Klas Hallqvist, development and quality manager at ScanBox. The company manufactures insulated transportation cabinets for delivering hot and cold foods from central kitchens to schools, hotels, residential homes and hospitals.
These boxes are manufactured in layers of aluminium, steel and foam to ensure the quality of the food and integrity of the food production chain, for example due to harmful temperature variations.
“But might the food be perceived as worse or less appetising due to events during transportation? The aim behind this project is to discover what happens to the cabinets,” he explains.
RISE has opened a dialogue with users regarding the functional requirements for a transport cabinet that generates data about itself. RISE has also studied what kind of value can be offered with the help of data from connected cabinets.
The developed solution treats each transport cabinet like a mobile telephone, sending a constant stream of data on its environment. An online interface is used to view temperature levels, whether or not the door is open, if the cabinet is connected to mains electricity, if the cabinet is in motion (using a vibration detector) and its GPS coordinates. The system is also able to send alerts, for example, if someone opens the door during transport, something that is prohibited. An alarm also sounds if mains electricity is connected once the cabinet arrives at its destination.
Customer insights have been gained
“Food is generally prepared too early and is left in the kitchen awaiting transport. There is also a common belief among customers that the food is served within two hours, although in reality it takes much longer,” says Klas Hallqvist.
The ability to offer customers greater control of the food chain is valuable, both to ScanBox and the company’s customers. For ScanBox, this opens up the opportunity to sell services in the forms of consultation and functionality, in addition to the cabinets themselves. The majority of central kitchens belong to a municipality that handles the procurement of transport services. Clearer requirements can be prepared for these procurements with knowledge of what actually happens during transport.
“This has been an excellent project for us; we see great potential for commercialisation,” says Klas Hallqvist.
“Although the project is an application of the Internet of Things, we are not actually developing the technology but rather the business concept that may utilise the technology. This is a departure to our normal activities at Rise,” says Jonas Matthing, research manager at RISE.
ScanBox manufactures insulated transport cabinets for hot and cold food for Scandinavian institutions and new markets. 65% of the company’s production goes for export. Established in 1992, the company is based in Olofström, employs 45 people and had an annual turnover of SEK 76 million in 2017.
The project IoFood was conducted between 1 December 2016 and 31 December 2017 and was financed by Vinnova. The project was coordinated by ScanBox, with RISE bearing responsibility for user involvement and testing, as well business development. Also involved in the project were Ronneby Municipality and consultancy company Softhouse, who contributed technical development.