Home    DHL    Insight

Jill Yu discusses DHL innovations aimed at reducing food waste

Jill Yu discusses DHL innovations aimed at reducing food waste

 June 12, 2024

 Read time

Looking to work on purposeful and innovative projects? Embark on an impactful career with DHL.

Food waste is a growing global problem, posing both logistical challenges and opportunities for innovation. DHL uses advanced logistics and technology to optimisze supply chains and minimize waste. By partnering with industry leaders, DHL helps transform waste into resources.

Meet DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation Senior Specialist of Smart Solutions Internet of Things (IoT), Jill Yu, who discusses DHL innovations aimed at reducing food waste.

Learn more about the growing problem of food waste, how state-of-the-art technology and supply chain management can prevent food from being wasted, and how to play an impactful role through joining DHL.

Technology and logistics can help reduce food waste

About one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted annually, about 1.3 billion tons, worth some US$1 trillion. All that 'surplus food' could feed two billion individuals, which is more than double the number of undernourished people worldwide. Annual global food waste results in CO2-equivalent (GtCO2e) emissions roughly equal to the total combined emissions of the US and EU. Food waste is, therefore, doubly problematic, exacerbating the problem of food insecurity while also harming the environment. As the global population grows, so does the demand for food, which increases the potential for waste. Food is wasted at every step in the food supply chain, from farms to refrigerators.

Food waste is a system wide problem that requires system wide solutions. It occurs at every stage in the food production process, including growing, processing, sorting, packaging, transportation, and sales. That’s why DHL collaborates with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to transform agribusiness by tackling the problem of food waste, enhancing food security, and improving global market access for producers.

Moving further down the food supply chain, the environmental impact of food waste becomes greater because all the resources used up to that point are also wasted, increasing the social cost. At these later stages, technology and logistics can play a crucial role in efficient food waste management.

Preventing food from spoiling or being wasted due to caution is mainly a tech challenge. Better data lets people know that food is still safe, so they don’t throw it away. Redistributing discarded foods is primarily a logistics challenge that requires dense and efficient logistics operations.

Reducing food waste on Avanti West Coast trains

DHL innovations for food waste management

DHL Supply Chain has managed onboard food services for Avanti in the UK since 2014. The team worked with DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation to develop a successful proof of concept for food waste management.

"At DHL, sustainability is at the center of everything we do, and innovative technology is a key enabler for us. Our colleagues at DHL Supply Chain UK have been operating Avanti West Coast on board service for years, and have always been seeking improvements in operations and sustainability," shares DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation Senior Specialist of Smart Solutions IoT, Jill Yu.

"Located at eight stations between London Euston and Glasgow, daily there are over 500 trolleys speeding into the networks, supplying ambient and fresh food on board. Ensuring food safety can be challenging, and temperature monitoring is not only required, but is also necessary. Without smart IoT solutions, temperature monitoring can be prone to errors, as well as require high manual labor, with both directly resulting in a high amount of food waste."

"Temperature monitoring with an IoT solution reduces errors and a high amount of food waste. It’s easy to deploy with almost no infrastructure and maintenance," says Jill.

New solution reducing unnecessary waste

By deploying smart sensors across the train operator’s network, DHL helped reduce food waste by up to 90 %, which is more than two tonnes a week. The plug-and-play sensors continuously monitor the temperature of food items, with data transmitted securely to the cloud. This allows for real-time decision-making and significantly reduces unnecessary waste.

"The new temperature monitoring solution is plug-and-play. The logger is mounted individually to the trolley, and is constantly monitoring its condition. It is infrastructureless and easy to deploy. With a simple QR code scanner, the temperature reading is uploaded to the cloud. The operator can also have immediate feedback and alerts to decide whether the food should be disposed of or not. All the data is safely stored in the cloud, to provide end-of-the-day controlling," comments Jill.

"Unlike traditional temperature monitoring solutions, the logger can easily be reused for its next journey, to fully utilize it until its end of life."

Employees receive an alert when food should be thrown out. Reliable temperature data also helps them determine whether the contents of food boxes are still safe, eliminating waste created out of caution. Additionally, monitoring extends shelf life and meets regulatory requirements. The solution is user-friendly, for DHL colleagues dispatching and conducting the return process, as well as for the on-board crew, and for management, to find the necessary information from historical data which is stored for a longer period of time.

Supporting sustainability in practice

Following the project's success, DHL is rolling the solution out across Avanti’s railway network.

"As for future plans, after successful proof of concept and positive feedback from all stakeholders, we are rolling out the solutions to the whole operation," says Jill.

"With the aim of reducing over two tonnes per week of food waste, which is equivalent to over £20,000, this is a great example of how the Smart Solutions IoT team can support sustainability in practice," concludes Jill.

Looking to work on purposeful and innovative projects?

DHL is serious about sustainability, and has a long-term commitment to the interests of customers, colleagues, communities ,and the planet itself.

Discover latest job vacancies at DHL.


Search jobs

Stay connected by subscribing to our monthly newsletter and following us on LinkedIn, X, Instagram and Facebook.

Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.


Join our women's careers community