Innovation - The Next Wave: food chain case studies

This case study features in the 2xEP Innovation - The Next Wave report (PDF, 5MB)

Case study: Cold supply chain optimisation through radio-frequency identification (RFID) and digital temperature recorders

Key organisation(s): 



In its pursuit of lower consumer prices Walmart investigated the use of RFID technology and digital temperature recorders in its cold supply chain inventory tracking system. The state-of-the-art technology and network design allows Walmart to accurately forecast demand, track and predict inventory levels, create high efficiency transportation routes, monitor and manage the effects of various temperature conditions on perishable produce.

The aim of the combined RFID and digital temperature recorder tracking is to decrease shrinkage due to food spoilage and to have faster response to equipment failure. This design allows the user to access both the traceability and sensor information.


This technology has enabled Walmart to optimise its supply chain, reduce waste and increased product availability for consumers, through efficient inventory management e.g. selling produce that may be spoiling sooner first. Reduced shrinkage due to reduced loss of water content means higher sales revenue, as most product is sold by weight. Energy savings by helping to identify faulty equipment before it wastes a lot of energy and leads to loss of saleable food, and sub-optimal operation of refrigeration equipment.

Combined use of RFID and digital temperature recorders also offer a broader array of advantages compared with traditional barcodes. They store more data, provide real-time information, and can be scanned from a distance and without a clear line of sight.

Energy productivity potential:

RFID and digital temperature recorder solutions, like those used by Walmart have the potential to greatly improve EP across the manufacturing supply chain, by matching supply and demand needs of businesses.


Walmart has used RFID tags for decades and in recent years have begun using digital temperature recorders to further optimise its supply chain. RFID combined with temperature monitoring has been adapted by a variety of businesses in recent years to reduce waste, increase efficiency of shipments to decrease dependence on transport and respond to consumer demand for fresher produce. Technology is currently estimated a TRL 7 and CRI 3.


For RFID and digital temperature recorders to be used efficiently, the total supply chain must be on board. Although Walmart encourages its suppliers to use digital temperature recorders in the cold supply chain, the company has not enforced a mandatory policy. This is because of the relatively high cost, difficulty of establishing a return on investment, reliability and accuracy. All these components have the potential for improvement with further cold chain application.


Digital temperature recorder information:




The Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP) comprises some of Australia's - and the world's - leading thinkers on energy productivity. Together with these experts and a number of outstanding research organisations, we have developed a number of important reports which are available for download below.


2xEP State of play (PDF, 6MB)



Innovation - The Next Wave


2xEP The next wave report (PDF, 5MB)


2xEP in the food value chain (PDF, 1.5MB)


2xEP: Optimising the food cold chain (PDF,1.5MB)


2xEP: high temperature heat pumps in the food industry (PDF, 6MB)


2xEP: Innovation in the shelter value chain (PDF, 1.5MB)




2xEP Sectoral Roadmaps


2xEP Built Environment Roadmap (PDF, 2MB)



2xEP Built Environment Roadmap Summary (PDF, 2MB)



2xEP Agriculture Roadmap (PDF, 2.5MB)



2xEP Mining Roadmap (PDF, 2.5MB)



2xEP Transport (Freight) Roadmap (PDF, 2.5MB)



2xEP Transport (Passenger) (PDF, 2.5MB)



2xEP Manufacturing Roadmap (PDF)




2xEP roadmaps: towards doubling Australia's energy productivity by 2030

A roadmap provides an excellent analogy for the long-term process of doubling energy. For any long and complex journey, we need to know:

  • where we are now, so that we don’t regress, or else overreach on the first steps;
  • where we need to get to, specifically in relation to where we are now; and
  • what are the best pathways to take us from where we are now to where we need to be.


2xEP has developed initial plans for the manufacturing, transport (passenger and freight), built environment, agriculture and mining sectors, and we have started a major program to systematically define the potential for major energy productivity improvements from innovation – new approaches and business models that result from combining a range of technologies.

The roadmaps for each of our sectors of focus can be viewed on the following pages:


We are currently developing an integrated plan for achieving 2xEP across the economy by bringing together sector plans and results from work on the potential for innovation to deliver energy productivity improvement in value chains.


2xEP: Innovation - The Next Wave

‘The Next Wave’ project explores opportunities for major improvements in energy productivity through the deployment of innovative technologies and business models. This work complements the roadmaps developed for specific sectors of the economy. ‘Innovation’ as canvassed by this project includes existing commercial technologies with less than ten per cent market penetration in Australia.

The project utilises an innovative methodology developed to assess energy use in a holistic way. It applies a ‘value chain’ methodology that examines all the steps involved in the delivery of end use products and services, working back to the original raw materials. It seeks out energy productivity opportunities through an integrated, circular economy approach to energy and material flows.

To understand the optimal application of energy to achieve the desired end service, we identified key common core processes used across the chain. We were not locked into assumptions about where these processes should best be undertaken. Our aim is to optimise these processes and related energy use across the value chain and to maximise the value created (e.g. through improved product quality).

Read our Phase1 Report for this project and the assessments which have been completed for the food and shelter value chains.

2xEP The Next Wave – Phase 1 Report (PDF, 5MB)



Value chains in focus in this project


The assessment for the food value chain in Australia (farm to plate/export) has been completed and is available below. During this assessment, the potential of various technologies to significantly improve the energ productivity of the food value chain were identified. The role these technologies can play has been further investigated in the reports below, 2xEP: Optimising the food cold chain and 2xEP: high temperature heat pumps in the food industry.

2xEP in the Food Value Chain (PDF, 1.5MB)


2xEP: Optimising the food cold chain (PDF,1.5MB)


2xEP: high temperature heat pumps in the food industry (PDF, 6MB)




A detailed assessment of the shelter value chain has been completed with numerous opportunities identified for improving energy productivity in both commercial and residential properties with greater integration of energy efficient technologies and materials at various stages of property installation and management.

2xEP: Innovation in the shelter value chain (PDF, 1.5MB)



Other value chains currently being assessed:

  • Health

  • Comfort

  • Connectivity (passenger)

  • Connectivity (freight)

  • Water

  • Education

  • Community

  • Security

Current state of play - energy productivity in Australia

Other major economies are well ahead of Australia in increasing energy productivity. Not only is the mean economic value per unit of energy consumed by the Group of 20 (G20) countries higher than for Australia, so too is the G20 mean improvement in energy productivity. Australia must act now to keep pace so that it avoids entrenching competitive disadvantage whilst G20 peers accelerate away.

Australia is coming from a relatively low productivity base, coupled with relatively high real energy prices, so the potential contribution of energy productivity improvement to Australia’s overall economic productivity is now at an historic high. This means that energy, as a production input, now has a more material impact on the profitability of businesses and Australia’s economic growth than ever before.



2xEP current state of play – April 2017

In the three years since our Energy Productivity Forum, the focus on lifting Australia’s languishing energy productivity has gained considerable momentum. Energy productivity (EP), the value we gain from each unit of energy, puts a focus on the value created by using energy effectively – economic outcomes - as well as on technical performance to optimise energy use.

Our aim is doing more, using less. EP actions include reducing energy waste, adopting more efficient technologies and practices, as well as managing the timing of energy demand and installing on-site energy generation where it delivers benefits. The 2xEP program – aiming to double EP between 2010 and 2030 – has brought together a strong coalition of business (associations and individual companies), governments, researchers, and not for profit organisations to achieve this objective.


Read our full 2xEP State of Play report from April 2017 (PDF, 6MB)