Temperature monitoring in the cold chain is a subject that generates headaches in any process. Soon some doubts hang: “Are my processes well controlled?” or “Are my qualifications being followed?” There is only one way to guarantee these answers:
Always record everything!
By the moment the goods leave its domain, anything can happen. It seems that we have no control over anything else. “Let’s hope that everything works out!” it is the thinking of the majority. Unfortunately, this is the reality. We have to hope for the truck to arrive, and at the right time. Hoping that the goods will not be in transit for a long time. Hoping that the airport’s cold room is working. Anyway, there are many variables beyond our control. There is no way to guarantee the whole process! But we can measure and record everything that happens.
A little of history…
Temperature measurement is a very old thing. Galileo Galilei invened the thermometer by the end of the 16th century. In 1714, Fahrenheit invented the mercury thermometer, which is still used today for simple temperature measurements. The maximum and minimum thermometer was invented by the English physicist James Six in 1780. Graphic paper recorders started to appear in the middle of the 19th century. And the evolution towards digital loggers happened quickly at the end of the last century.
How is it possible that in the middle of the 21st century there is still someone ‘recording’ temperatures on a paper sheet? The data loggers are increasingly compact and cheap! Technologies such as USB, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth and 3G / 4G are within everyone’s reach, enabling a multitude of applications when it comes to temperature recording. Yes, we are evolving to ‘online’ monitoring, anytime and anywhere. Everything, however, has its price! Does your process need it all?
In many processes, the simple is the most appropriate.
Frustration occurs when we want to look only at the most complete system, the ‘online’ system.
It’s either everything or nothing! And in the end we are left with the old – and inconsistent – sheet of paper! Costs are out of budget, some may claim. But do not need be like that. Just a little coherence is enough to know that one step at a time can be the best way out. In many processes, the simple is the most appropriate. You only need one disposable tag to monitor and record temperatures. If it does, do the reverse logistics and reuse your tags.
Online information: data whenever you need it.
But if you really need something ‘online’, there are some important informations. First, it will be more expensive than any other registration system. Ensure that information is available in more than one location. Just having a PC monitoring the process and recording data is asking to be bothered. Always have a data logger halfway, at least as a backup, for exceptional cases. Mobile solutions will have to provide extra services, such as 3G / 4G data chip, data hosting services and cloud! But we are talking about guaranteed deliveries, digitally audited, accessible at any time and validated. Yes, the cloud can also be validated! But this is the subject of another article.
There are other good solutions on the market between the simple and the most complete. Wireless technologies such as NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and IEEE 802.15.4 have several applications and greatly reduce installation costs. Data loggers with NFC or Bluetooth communicate with smartphones, generating mobility to the data collection process. In this case, the smartphone is the interface, transporting data to the cloud, without the need for a 3G / 4G data chip in each device. Wi-Fi tags easily connect to existing networks, transporting data without the need for large infrastructure. IEEE 802.15.4 allows for more robust communication over longer distances, ideal for logistics and distribution centers.
We don’t need to depend on luck: the technology will help us!
Anyway, the option between blindly trusting the process or guaranteeing it 100% with data and records is a simpler choice than it seems. What is certain is that there is a technology for every pocket and expectation. Just relying on luck is no longer reasonable!