Live monitoring of milk supply chains

Tuesday, 27 August, 2019

Live monitoring of milk supply chains

Swinburne University is leading a milk logisitics research project valued at over $2 million to develop technology that allows live monitoring of milk supply chains. The Director of Swinburne’s Internet of Things Lab and project researcher, Professor Dimitrios Georgakopoulos, spoke to us about the project’s ambitions.

Australia’s milk supply chain logistics are currently not perfect, said Prof Georgakopoulos. Therefore, he said the two main objectives of the Milk Supply Chain Project are to improve the operational efficiency of the milk supply chain and as a result create opportunities to generate revenue for the Australian dairy industry.

The project will develop an Internet of Things (IoT)-based system using over 700 sensors, to measure specific aspects of the supply chain that links dairy farms, milk carriers and a milk processor, and allows live monitoring of milk supply chains.

Sensors will be installed to monitor both the temperature and quantity of the milk collection process, Prof Georgakopoulos explained. “The project will also develop a milk quality sensor to detect protein in the milk,” he said. This means that the high-quality milk (ie, milk that contains a high amount of protein) can be kept separate and then used for the production of high-yield products such as macrobiotic yoghurts. “At the moment, all the milk is mixed, but if it was separated out, the high-quality milk could have the potential to achieve four times the profit when used for high-yield products.”

Environmental sensors will also be used to monitor weather “as this plays a big part in the production of milk, especially temperature and humidity”, Prof Georgakopoulos said. The data collected will enable highly accurate milk supply forecasting.

During the milk pick-up process, sensors will be used to identify the trucks, and microphones will sense when important tasks, such as washing tanks, are completed. “This is designed to help avoid mistakes that can lead to product wastage; it also allows for dynamic pick-ups based in real time.”

As the supply is added, the milk collection sensors will advise the quality and quantity of the milk, and the sensors on the truck will locate the trucks for dynamic scheduling in real time.

“The milk price is also determined by how long the milk is stored and the temperature kept,” Georgakopoulos said. “Therefore, by optimising the transport capacity based on collection data, it creates the potential for achieving a higher price for the milk produced.”

Swinburne’s Milk Supply Chain Project will be conducted in collaboration with Bega Cheese and 100 Australian milk suppliers using Telstra’s Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network.

The ‘Live Inbound Milk Supply Chain Monitoring and Logistics for Productivity and Competitiveness’ project (Milk Supply Chain Project) has received $600,000 under round 7 of the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P).

The project is part of Swinburne’s Industry 4.0 Initiative, which helps global industry solve challenges and create opportunities from the profound changes wrought by the industrial revolution.

Prof Georgakopoulos said that some initial results from this two and a half years-long project will be available next year, adding that there is the potential for the technology to be adopted for other applications, such as during the milk processing stage.

Image credit: © Suntornkij

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