Lineage Data Science team collaboratively working on Lineage Eye in the bustling San Francisco office.

Behind the Scenes of Lineage Eye: Automation Innovation in Cold Chain Logistics

March 12, 2024

Technology is essential to solving many of the most complex logistical challenges in our industry. Take Lineage Eye for example; Lineage Eye is part of our answer to the challenge of automating product receiving to improve overall efficiency throughout the cold chain. This proprietary, cutting-edge technology was developed by our in-house team of data scientists and deployed at a select few Lineage warehouses. We had the privilege of speaking with three key figures from our Data Science team to get their perspective on what went into developing and deploying Lineage Eye. Daniel Wintz, Director of Warehouse Algorithms; Brian Leahy, Senior Data Scientist; and Caitlin Voegele, Director of Data Science Strategy, provide a behind the scenes look at the Lineage innovation philosophy and how Lineage Eye came to be. 

What is Lineage's innovation philosophy and how does it guide your approach to identifying opportunities and solving problems in the cold chain? 

Daniel Wintz – Our innovation philosophy is centered around bringing math, science and technology to the heavy industrial space. It’s an oft-forgotten sector from a science and technology perspective, and as such, allows us large degrees of freedom to maneuver and realize the huge potential at Lineage and for warehousing in general. 

What unique challenges does the cold chain present for innovation, and can you share how Lineage Eye helps us overcome a particularly complex problem? 

Brian Leahy – There’s no shortage of technology challenges in the cold chain, which is good for those of us who like challenges. One big challenge in the cold chain is temperature. The cold environment in our warehouses means condensation forms on optics and electronics; it means thermal stress and thermal drift; it means parts have to be rated to handle those temperatures. In an industrial environment, things have to be able to withstand dust, vibrations, getting bumped, etc. That places strong constraints on hardware designs.  

Another big challenge is that we’re a 3PL (third-party logistics) company. Many of our customers come to us because they have supply chain challenges that they need our help to solve. Not only do our innovations need to handle whatever existing challenges our customers have, but we want our innovations to be flexible enough to handle new challenges as they arise. For instance, we had a customer ask for periodic audits of every pallet they had in our warehouse. Not only could our operations partners tell the customer they could handle that, but they can show the customer that, because the Lineage Eye was already taking pictures of every received pallet, they could fulfill the customer’s requests more easily and accurately than the customer had expected. 

How does collaboration and the integration of diverse scientific and technological knowledge contribute to your innovation process, especially when it comes to the Lineage Eye? 

Caitlin Voegele – In recent years, we've successfully transitioned Lineage Eye from a proof of concept to an automated receiving system, thanks to the collaboration between technical and operational experts. By merging operational excellence from our warehouse partners with technological innovations from the data science field, we've created competitive advantages for our facilities. We will continue to emphasize close communication with the operators utilizing the Lineage Eye systems so that we can bring the latest technological solutions to address their challenges and optimize the food supply chain. 

Could you describe how Lineage fosters a culture of innovation, and how did that culture contribute to the development of solutions like the Lineage Eye? 

Brian – On the Data Science team, we take a high degree of ownership of projects. For Lineage Eye, I was never told, “write this piece of software that does these things.” It was, “go automate receiving.” We always try to prioritize the high-priority goal, not the steps along the way. We knew the solution was going to be computer vision based, but it was our freedom to focus on the top-level goal without getting caught up in the procedural steps that allowed us to get there. Part of what comes with that culture is trust and empowerment. 

Another great culture we have on the Data Science team is prioritizing strong connections with the folks on the floor. We go to sites, walk the floor, even help receive trucks or stack cases. That lets us see in real-time where the gaps and pain-points are, and what innovations the sites really need. 

Combining those three pillars – trust, empowerment and knowledge of what’s really needed – creates the environment for innovation that lets us build things like the Lineage Eye. 

How do these innovations, especially the Lineage Eye, enhance Lineage's efficiency and the cold chain experience for our customers and end consumers? 

Brian – The effects of Lineage Eye on our warehouse efficiency is cumulative. When Lineage Eye makes it faster to receive pallets, those time savings stack up. Not only does this mean the forklift driver can spend less time unloading a truck, but the truck driver then spends less time waiting to be unloaded and the customer experiences fewer delays getting their product into our Lineage Eye warehouse. 

Standardizing processes also helps. By working to automate receiving, Lineage Eye reduces the variability in time to receive a truck, which makes it easier to schedule labor. It helps reduces the number of mistakes during receiving and makes it easier to train team members, since the process is more simplified than manually receiving every item. 

At the end of the day, faster receiving, fewer errors and standardized processes help bring a better, more consistent experiences to our customers, carriers and team members. 

A Culture of Innovation Powers Lineage Eye's Success 

Through our conversations with Daniel Wintz, Brian Leahy and Caitlin Voegele, it’s easy to see that innovation is about more than just technological advancement; it’s about Lineage’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the cold chain industry. Lineage Eye shows how a culture of trust and empowerment, paired with real-time, practical feedback can create solutions to the ever-evolving demands of the logistics world.