Most consumers never think about what it takes to get the everyday products they rely on day to nearby retailers and healthcare facilities, taking for granted how easy it is to wander into a local grocery store to buy virtually anything, or the fact that needed medications are available at pharmacies or even through telemedicine and delivery services.
However, the fact is that crucial systems, regulations, and technologies facilitate the transportation and storage of these products. Among the most important is a practice called temperature mapping, which entails the careful monitoring and recording of temperatures and environmental data from different areas in storage facilities.
Without temperature monitoring practices, many essential products including food, drinks, and medicines could not safely reach retailers and consumers. Nonetheless, temperature monitoring remains a black box for many people, including those who work in related industries. Let’s explore the tools, technologies, and regulations that impact temperature monitoring strategies.
Using Data Loggers to Measure and Record Environmental Data
Data loggers are small electronic devices that measure and record different kinds of environmental data, such as temperature, humidity, and differential pressure. They represent a significant technological step forward in the field of ambient temperature monitors and have virtually displaced the analog, manual temperature monitoring practices of the past.
Most data loggers have some form of internal storage in which environmental data can be housed and later exported to external computers, hard drives, or software. They significantly reduce human error, labor needs, record-keeping tasks, and other inefficiencies from when that individual workers manually recorded temperatures.
Some data loggers can even be connected to the internet and remotely transmit data to external systems. While these internet-enabled data loggers do come with their fair share of cybersecurity risks, they remain a significant innovation in the field, giving professionals the ability to monitor the temperature and environmental data of storage facilities in real-time and be alerted when said data falls outside of desired ranges.
Data loggers are used extensively by the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries to make sure temperature-sensitive products are stored in safe conditions. This is critical to transporting products to retailers in a temperature-controlled supply chain, often referred to as cold chain storage. Companies will also use them to format and submit data to regulators to ensure compliance with relevant federal and state laws as well as agencies like the FDA.
Why Temperature Mapping is Important
Data loggers do a great job of measuring temperatures in specific physical areas, but temperatures in different areas of a storage unit can vary significantly. This creates a challenge for supply chain managers, since products on one side of a storage facility might be within safe temperature ranges while products on the other side might not.
To correct for these discrepancies, companies use temperature mapping practices. According to Dickson Data, data loggers are installed in different locations within a storage facility, which allows management to construct a dynamic model or map of temperatures throughout and keep all necessary products at safe temperatures. Temperature fluctuations can lead to, among other things, expired food, which causes foodborne illness outbreaks, or the destabalization of temperature-sensitive medical products.
This second issue has come into the spotlight in light of the CoViD-19 pandemic, since many CoViD-19 vaccines must be stored and transported at ultra-low temperatures. An influx of investment in companies that facilitate cold chain storage systems has come in, as big data becomes an increasingly important aspect of the medical and pharmaceutical industries.
Temperature Mapping Equipment and Best Practices
Temperature mapping equipment must be set to specific temperatures. For example, refrigerators are typically kept at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. Freezers are normally kept at either a -25 to -15 degree Celsius range or a -50 to -30 degree Celsius range. Ultra-low temperature freezers typically must stay within a range of -90 to -70 degrees Celsius.
Risk assessment tests should regularly be conducted on temperature mapping equipment, both when the equipment is empty and when it’s fully loaded with products. A door open test, a power off test, and temperature distribution while equipment is partially loaded should be tested as well. The number of temperature sensors or data loggers required will also vary depending on the equipment being used. For example, under bench temperature controlled units require 9 sensors, while upright temperature controlled units typically require 12 sensors.
More sensors should be placed in different parts of the upper and lower shelves of cold storage containers to account for possible temperature variations in those areas. Healthcare professionals should consider the costs associated with data loggers when scaling a medical practice. Depending on the kinds of products being stored, humidity mapping should also be considered.
When deciding which data loggers to use for temperature mapping, managers should consider several factors: accuracy, response time, internal memory, sensor location, logging frequency, range, and software compatibility. Data loggers should also be calibrated in accordance with national standards and the specifications of their manufacturers.
Although many consumers might not be aware of their importance, temperature mapping practices are essential to storing and transporting essential products to retailers. Despite privacy concerns, big data is having transformational effects on virtually every major industry, with big pharma is just one such example. Managers should take a careful, meticulous approach to implementing temperature mapping policies that align with the regulations of their industry.