Temperature Monitoring for Cold Chain Logistics

Environmental monitoring throughout the cold chain for sensitive products such as food, drink and pharmaceuticals is essential to ensure that temperatures are accurately maintained at specified levels and recorded for ongoing verification.

For food and drink products, temperature monitoring during transport and storage may be governed by specific regulations, including HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) controls, Food Hygiene Regulations, European Union QFF (quick-frozen foodstuffs) Regulations and BS EN 12830:1999 standards.

Tinytag data loggers for cold chain logistics

For medicines, in the UK MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) regulations concerning temperature control may apply. WHO Guidelines cover temperature control during pharmaceutical storage and transportation, and European Good Distribution Practice (GDP) Guidelines for medicines are mandatory within the EU to ensure that quality levels are maintained throughout the distribution network.

Using data loggers for temperature monitoring

Both standalone Tinytag data loggers and the Radio Data Logging System provide an effective solution for cold chain temperature/RH monitoring, ensuring conditions can be recorded, analysed and validated. Tinytags are accurate, flexible, easy to use and able to measure small changes in temperature.

Loggers are set up and data is presented in Tinytag Explorer data logging software, an easy to use Windows program. Recorded data is clearly displayed in graphs and tables which can be printed, copied and pasted, or exported into popular software packages.

Standalone data loggers

Standalone loggers record temperature data which is downloaded via a USB cable to a PC for analysis. They provide a cost-effective solution for perishable goods during transport: small and robust, they can be left to record for long periods if necessary with shipments by road, rail, sea and air. Many models have a magnetic trigger and delayed start option so they can be started anywhere or at a pre-set time without the need for a PC.

The Tinytag Transit 2 (TG-4080, TG-4081) is a cost-effective temperature logger ideal for monitoring shipments. Its slimline, lightweight design allows it to be placed unobtrusively with goods and packaging and it is BS EN 12830:1999 compliant to meet the requirements of European legislation for frozen and chilled foods storage and transportation.

Recorded information can be downloaded via a USB cable to a PC, or using the ACS-3030 inductive pad which makes it very quick and easy. The logger is simply placed on the pad, which plugs into the PC with a USB cable, removing the need to directly connect a cable to each logger. This speeds up the configuration and offloading of multiple loggers, and is useful in harsh or wet environments where exposing connections can be avoided. Offloading data from more than one logger at a time is straightforward using the Bulk Offload Tool in the Tinytag Explorer software. If multiple USB ports or a USB hub are available on the computer, it is possible to re-launch, download or obtain current readings from several data loggers at the same time.

The Tinytag View 2 (TV-4020) is also BS EN 12830:1999 compliant and has a digital display giving current readings as well as recording data. Rugged Tinytag Plus 2 temperature and humidity data loggers are waterproof to IP68 and ideal for use in vehicles or containers that need to be hosed down or disinfected regularly. Both Tinytag View 2 and Plus 2 loggers can be supplied with probes if there is a requirement to monitor difficult to reach areas, or product core temperature as well as ambient conditions.

Alarm warnings can be vital and in some cases mandatory for cold chain logistics. Tinytag data loggers have an alarm which will activate if conditions fall outside a user-defined range. If activated, a red flashing LED will appear on the logger. An audible alarm box is available for some models, and the View 2 logger's digital display includes an alarm icon.

The Tinytag Radio System

Radio data loggers gather data automatically using wireless communications, enabling the loggers to be accessed remotely and information to be viewed without the need to be downloaded manually. The system consists of a receiver connected to a computer or LAN and a number of radio loggers which self-configure to form a robust mesh network. The loggers are able to receive, log, store and transmit data and work together to send information to the receiver for viewing on a PC, across a LAN, or remotely across the internet.

Robust, weatherproof radio loggers are ideal for cold chain storage and warehouses with multiple monitoring points. They are also used in dynamic logistics operations: loggers can be placed in refrigerated delivery vehicles to record and store temperature data while the vehicle is out. On return to the depot, data is automatically offloaded once the loggers are back in range of the radio mesh network. Their rugged design means they are robust enough to withstand conditions experienced en route.

The Tinytag Radio System's ability to offload data automatically can be beneficial if time is a critical factor in assessing whether conditions for a shipment have been correctly maintained, and if vehicle turnaround times are a priority. Alarm warnings are displayed on radio loggers as a red flashing LED, and notifications also appear in the software when the logger is connected to the mesh network. Alarm warnings can be sent via email and SMS, enabling corrective action to be initiated even if no-one is present on site.

Energy efficiency

Cold chain operators are looking for new ways to balance the energy-intensive requirements of perishable goods, trying to reduce power consumption and identify areas for improvement, by closely monitoring power consumption and CO2 emissions in their facilities. Many companies involved in cold chain storage and distribution may be subject to internal and external energy saving targets.

For example, many may be considering LED replacement lighting, not just for energy efficiency reasons, but because traditional lighting can produce extra heat in areas subject to temperature control.

The Tinytag Energy data logger is ideal for evaluating before and after conditions in lighting and heating system replacement projects, as well as for providing specific data about the amount of energy used in a facility. Tinytag CO2 data loggers are also a useful tool in monitoring the efficiency of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

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