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Keeping a cool head

Marcus Stacey-Bradbury of Hanwell Solutions explains how monitoring solutions can help to reduce temperature fluctuations in the supply chain.

 

Keeping tabs on storage conditions is essential to meet government legislation. Manual checks or data loggers only provide a retrospective view of what has happened; the damage may already be done. However, new wireless monitoring solutions can provide real-time data and early-warnings of potentially damaging environmental fluctuations, such as temperature and humidity.

Food hygiene laws are strictly enforced in the UK so educating food businesses on quality temperature control solutions is not a sales pitch but a necessity to ensure that they comply with BRC, HACCP, FSA and ISO 2200. Any of these authorities can turn up to conduct inspections, to check that the regulations are being complied with and the highest standards are in place, especially the environmental conditions for food items.

As regulation is a driver for improvement, monitoring storage conditions every minute, 24/7, 365 days a year provides an extra layer of protection for food products. Having well-documented records and data on how storage equipment is performing over a continuous period of time is a significant advantage that can save time, costs and of course reputation.

Real-time, wireless monitoring of the environment in which food is kept can protect against incidents, such as power cuts, fridge failures or doors left open. The uncertain British climate, which saw temperatures of up to 19°C in February this year before dipping to below freezing overnight, can also have an adverse effect on stored food products – even canned goods.

Whether storing meat, poultry, seafood or bread and cakes, ensuring temperatures are being maintained at the correct level is vital.  The earlier a problem is picked up, the quicker it can be rectified. Relying on loggers and intermittent wireless equipment will not save money in the long term, but potentially lead to a financial hit, a health hazard and even a disastrous recall.

The latest wireless solutions are flexible so you can easily move or expand the number of sensors to ensure they are always in optimum position and to provide continuous output for consistent and accurate readings, wherever you are located.

Conversely, remote monitoring solutions can free up staff time by reducing the need for manual checks on storage conditions. Data can be automatically sent by email so that content cannot be tampered with resulting in a secure closed loop which ticks many boxes for the various regulatory authorities. It is important to have historical data in the right format so that when an inspector does come calling to do an audit, you can speed up the process by printing out the report. Every auditor is going to find something that needs addressing, that is their job, but good housekeeping can save time and hassle.

However, if you are a food manufacturer, distributor or retailer relying on the integrity of your supply chain, how do you know that all products reach you in their optimum condition – and, in fact, have remained that way throughout the journey?

Perhaps the biggest challenge in maintaining temperature integrity is when transporting from one distribution point to another location. Data loggers are typically used for delivery applications, providing data which then requires manual processing. Unfortunately, this data only shows a retrospective view and any damage from temperature fluctuation will already have occurred. In fact, it is quite possible that by the time the information is properly processed, the product may have already been sold and consumed.

This situation can be easily remedied, as there are many environmental monitoring solutions available which can provide better protection. However, the most effective and reliable are wireless transmitter-based solutions, rather than those using WiFi technology, which is not as reliable or far-reaching.

Hanwell’s iSense is an innovative self-contained transmitter which facilitates remote monitoring of a wide range of parameters via wireless GPRS technology and sends alerts during transit. Linked to Hanwell EMS, iSense provides total visibility of an operation as well as compliance data – ultimately helping to reduce the amount of produce lost from temperature damage. This system can monitor the entire process, potentially reducing waste, freeing up staff time and creating a paperless, centralised and continuous monitoring process.

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