Hans-Dieter Philipowski is an engineer and for more than 25 years, he has built cleaning plants as an entrepreneur in Europe and Russia. As the founder of ENFIT e.V. - International Association - Supply Chain Safety, he knows the grievances that prevail in the food transport industry and knows what risks can arise for consumers and companies. His innovative blockchain cloud-solution bulkvision is now able to account for the complete traceability of food transportation and raise food safety to a new level. For this, bulkvision was nominated by the networ, „Die Deutsche Wirtschaft“ for the "Innovator of the Year 2020" award.
What exactly does the solution do? How do the food industry, trade, logistics and consumers benefit? And what did it take to develop such an innovation in the first place? Learn more in our latest interview with Hans-Dieter Philipowski.
Product recalls are not uncommon. Mr Philipowski, what needs to happen so that food producers have to warn consumers about their own products?
Product recalls quickly bring to mind foreign objects in food, such as glass or metal splinters and plastic particles that have entered the food during production. But micro organisms, such as viruses, fungi or bacteria are also a major risk factor. And this does not necessarily have to have arisen during production itself: Dangerous impurities, i.e. contamination, can very often already occur during the transport of unpackaged raw materials and food, i.e. in the food transport containers. Viruses, bacteria or other foreign substances can therefore also be smuggled into the production plant from outside together with the raw material delivery.
Can you give a specific example?
Let us think of silo transports - flours that are brought from the mill to the large bakery for further processing. Did you know that in containers for flour transports moulds can occur which release highly toxic mycotoxins? These are very dangerous toxins that cannot be harmed even when heated to 225 °C. Also which, despite further processing into baked goods, can cause life-threatening diseases such as kidney cancer.
How does it happen that these types of contaminations get into our food via transport containers?
Well, although it is forbidden by law, but unpacked feed additives are also always transported in food containers. In silo transports, for example, food is not only consistently transported: Non-food products also end up in these transport containers. Feed additives that are processed into animal feed are often waste from the food industry or the catering trade. These can be fats and frying oils, proteins, spoiled food that is already contaminated and thus carries large amounts of viruses and bacteria. Dried chicken manure, bone meal or finished animal feed are also transported in these same food transport containers.
According to lebensmittelwarnungen.de, the online portal of the federal states and the BLV, 2019 represents a new record year in product recalls. This includes the recall of Wilke sausage, one of the biggest food scandals of all time. Why is the situation not improving?
The reasons for this are primarily the enormous cost pressure. There are also legal loopholes, especially when it comes to the safe transport of raw materials and food. Companies often lack qualified personnel capable of identifying the gaps in the complex supply chain. In some cases, product recalls cause losses in the millions - think of the recall of one of the world's best-known confectionery manufacturers in 2016, which affected 55 countries. Plant closures also occur, as in the Wilke-Wurst case that was just mentioned. In my opinion, it is not enough to only eliminate hygiene weaknesses in operations and the supply chain because of the costs involved. This is exactly where bulkvision comes in.
This blockchain solution is now intended to provide more transparency and thus force better hygiene standards for the transport of food and other food raw materials. What was the initial spark that brought about your idea?
For many years, I have built cleaning systems for the cleaning of transport containers. In this context, I have seen the hygienic weak points of tank trucks, silos, IBCs (Intermediate Bulk Containers), reefer containers and other containers in which food and food raw materials were transported. That was the trigger. Because, apart from being an engineer and plant constructor, I am also a family man and a consumer myself. I see it as my duty to ensure more food safety in the supply chain. Therefore, 15 years ago I founded the association ENFIT, which pursues the goal of standardizing and further developing food safety and security in the supply chain and food compliance.
Together with the Hamburg based digital agency, WebFor Life, they are currently implementing the bulkvision application, which was nominated by the DDW network for the "Innovator of the Year 2020" award. What does bulkvision do?
bulkvision enables the transparent and complete traceability of food shipments worldwide. The application offers, among many other tools, the Track and Trace of the transport containers, just as we know it from the tracking and tracing of parcel services - but specially tweaked for the additional requirements of food transports. Via scan, all information about a product or a transport is retrieved and thus a completely transparent supply chain is mapped. With bulkvision, we are also creating the first ever opportunity for all participants in the supply chain to receive information from their direct partners via a blockchain cloud solution - upstream and downstream. This also benefits logistics companies and cleaning plants that are responsible for cleaning the transport containers.
How exactly does the technology work?
Primarily with the bulkvision App. Per QR Code, Barcode and RFID transponders, all networked with a specially developed label – a GID (Global Identification), which is attached directly to the transport container, the recipient of the goods can scan the code via smartphone and receives all details about the freight as well as answers to questions like: What was the last load? When, where and how was the transport container cleaned? When and with what was the transport container refilled? How long was it on the road? All information about the supplier, the goods, the transport process and all partners involved can be retrieved within seconds. The unique and therefore unique GID is designed to prevent manipulation.
Who benefits from bulkvision in particular?
Besides the consumers, most of all the producers themselves. bulkvision is the insurance for validated and traceable information. All data is secured and protected via the blockchain. But also logisticians and cleaning plants benefit from this, who can save administration and handling costs. And for us as end consumers, food safety ultimately increases.
How was your experience cooperating together with enomyc and the digital agency, Web For Life?
For my ideas and visions, I needed a dedicated team of software developers who can quickly and efficiently capture my vision and develop it technically. The guys at Web For Life really know how to do this. With the experts from enomyc, I was able to discuss the business side of things. Since the consultants have an enormous advantage: They know many other companies and their insights into markets, which simply enables them to have a great know-how about what the markets‘ need. This has given many good ideas and impulses for marketing bulkvision.
What other application areas do you see for bulkvision and what are you currently working on?
bulkvision can be used for everything that is transported - including feed, chemicals and more. Currently, I am further developing bulkvision together with Web For Life. In the future, the application will also be used for the digital identification of suppliers and drivers to make delivery processes simpler and, above all, more transparent. By means of scanning, for example, waiting times will be reduced, corona measures, such as distance regulations, are to be better adhered to and previously time-consuming manual processes, such as filling out paperwork, copying ID cards, etc., are to be eliminated completely. We can also eliminate misunderstandings that often arise in global logistics due to the language barrier. We are working to ensure that every driver can use the app in his or her own language and that the information is also exported in the local language of the respective destination. My goal is that every transport unit in the world bears the bulkvision label.
We wish you every success with this, Mr. Philipowski. Thank you very much for the interview.
We congratulate Mr. Philipowski and his team on the nomination of bulkvision for "Innovator of the Year 2020". The election is currently running. For more transparency and thus food safety within the supply chain, you too can vote!