You’ve probably eaten something today that was shipped by Lineage Logistics. About 90% of the food Americans consume requires refrigeration at some point during transport, and Lineage provides that service for some 3,000 customers, including food giants Walmart, Tyson, and McDonald’s. But in doing so, the company expends as much energy each year as 50,000 households. When Greg Lehmkuhl took over as CEO in 2015, he challenged his team to “dramatically change the amount of energy that’s consumed in a temperature-controlled supply chain.”
Last year in particular, Lineage’s mathematicians, physicists, and engineers made great strides in using data science to optimize operations. In July, the company secured its first patent, for an algorithm that uses lidar scans of warehouses to determine the most space-efficient way to store pallets. This helped the company pack an extra 800,000 square feet of product (or 14 football fields, 40 feet high) into its existing 162 buildings, effectively saving $40 million in warehousing costs. Lineage was also able to cut its overall energy consumption by 34% over three years by installing thousands of internet-connected temperature sensors in its warehouses and using artificial intelligence to regulate refrigeration throughout the day—saving more than $4 million annually, and as much energy as 240,000 home refrigerators use per year. Lineage Link, trucking software piloted at the end of 2018, automates packing, routes, and deliveries; it reduced the company’s loading and unloading processes from three or four hours to around 45 minutes. These advances attracted new customers, including Amazon, PepsiCo, and Sonic, and helped Lineage surpass $1.4 billion in revenue in 2018, up 38% from 2017.