Digital from the field to the plate
Where does the great added value of digitization lie today? Not in the invention of new data worlds, but in the application of the new technical possibilities to the existing living environment. This is what a young company in Ludwigsburg's Weststadt district, Check Services GmbH, stands for. Based on this philosophy, the start-up has found a way to use digital means to make the personnel-intensive control procedures in food processing easier and faster. The system also offers a platform for comprehensive action throughout the entire food chain, including reusable products.
The managing director is Max Maier. It is no coincidence that the young entrepreneur realizes ideas for digitalization especially in the food industry. His father is Max Maier senior, who is not only the owner of Ludwigsburg's Urbanharbor business park, but also the owner of the Reutlingen-based company Rieber, an equipment specialist for the professional catering industry. Anyone who produces, processes and distributes food today has to ensure that a growing number of controls are carried out on their own responsibility in day-to-day production. The package of regulations goes by the abbreviation HACCP and means the proof that in a restaurant as in a large kitchen, on a farm as in a dairy, the standards for hygiene and for the temperature of the food are maintained on a whole chain of control points.
Until now, this has meant costly paperwork for many catering businesses to document proof of inspections.
In the initial phase of their digital development strategy, Maier and his father still relied on developing their own IT solutions. "But we realized that we'd be better off focusing on our core competence and looking for a partner." The choice fell on Telekom subsidiary T-Systems. Check Services offers a control chain networked via the Internet. This consists in part of permanently installed sensors that automatically collect data in the cold storage room, for example. In the kitchen or during transport, mobile measuring devices are needed. Here, the check system uses a technical development from racing, where the tire temperature is recorded within just one or two seconds during a pit stop. This technology, implemented in a measuring device that is networked with the smartphone app via Bluetooth, accelerates the temperature control of food and makes the leap into digitalization.
The various checkpoints, for example at dispensing counters or transport containers, are marked with QR codes and can thus be quickly located for data processing and documentation by smartphone scan. The data in the check system all goes into a cloud solution from T-Systems. "We can thus ensure the guidelines of German data protection," says Max Maier. In line with the insight that "you can only become strong in the digital world with strong partners," the cooperation with one of Germany's most powerful data centers at the University of Stuttgart also fits in. There is the necessary capacity to analyze as much of the digital data from the check system as possible. This with the aim of further improving processes in the food chain. "If we develop an algorithm that can dynamically create the best-before date based on the real-time temperature throughout the entire cold chain, food would have a longer shelf life on average, which would reduce food waste," explains Max Maier.
The new Check Services GmbH has been spun off from the parent company Rieber. "We want to offer the food industry a cross-manufacturer and holistic platform," says the managing director. The vision is to integrate other areas in the production, distribution and processing of food into the platform. "Each division in the entire food sector is well organised in its own right, but it stops at its own edge, there is still a kind of silo thinking," says Max Maier.
A networked food world offers new and far-reaching perspectives, such as the shift away from disposable packaging and plastic waste to a reusable system. This is where the paths of the spin-off Check Services GmbH and the parent company Rieber meet again. Max Maier Sr. has developed a reusable system with temperature-efficient stainless steel/aluminum containers and matching kitchen technology.
Just these days, the Maier family has won a prominent and large customer for the catering market for this combination of digitalization, reusable and automated kitchen technology: Dr. Oetker Professional Germany.
Published December 1-2, 2018 in LKZ.
Author Peter Maier-Stein
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