8 Features a Data Logger Should Have to Improve Cold Chain Management

Mitch Denton   |   April 13, 2020
Data logger title image

Cold chain management is difficult to get right. The environment needs to be carefully monitored and adjusted to keep shipments from going to waste, especially with unpredictable fresh food shipments. 

Data loggers are essential to maintaining an efficient and profitable cold chain storage facility. They help monitor various environmental factors and optimise facility operations. But, technology has been improving fast, and not every data acquisition system on the market makes the cut anymore. 

Here are 8 essential features to look for in a cold chain data logger to ensure your facility stays competitive and profitable. 

Accuracy and Sensitivity

Accurate measurements are essential when it comes to data logging. You may think that having ballpark measurements will do, but if your systems are providing generic readings then you’re missing out on major benefits and savings that you aren’t even aware of. 

Firstly, taking highly accurate readings means your data logger can detect problems quicker. More importantly, it allows you to detect small trends before they become a problem. For example, an ethylene monitoring and recording system that can only detect atmosphere changes of 50 Parts Per Billion (PPB) will be completely blind to any small changes within the 5-10 PPB range. This gap in notifications can potentially be the difference between a product being purchased by a consumer or failing to go to market at all. This significant notice problem, can cost you in accumulated damages over time, making inferior technology a long-term financial strain on supplies. 

Sensitivity is also crucial, especially when it comes to ethylene detectors for fresh produce. You need to be able to detect and respond while levels are still insignificant. Any longer, and it’s likely too late for the shipment. 

The primary job of your data logger is to acquire data for a larger system. Make sure it’s sensitive and accurate enough to give your management systems what they need to create the optimum temperature-controlled environment. 

Cloud-connected

These days, almost every device is connected, and a device’s utility is often determined by what it is connected to. That’s certainly true when it comes to data recorders, so a real-time connection to the cloud is vital. Whether it be by WiFi or some other port system, your physical device should act as an acquisition system that connects and shares its data with a software UI processing system.

You don’t just save on man-hours, avoiding all of the manual collecting and storing of data, but you’re also in a state of constantly uploading, storing, and notifying relevant parties of the most current atmosphere readings in real-time.

Predictive analytics

Data is considered the most valuable resource in the world today, but only if you know what to do with it. Used right, the data collected by your data logger can make reliable predictions about provide you with actionable data.

For cold chain facilities, this means monitoring everything from level of temperature, detecting atmospheric changes in humidity and the fluctuating levels of present Gases & Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). With these monitoring factors, the sensor technology can pave the way for produce health predictions, and with that information you can take preventative action to ensure the longevity of each shipment and be sure to send the product out at the optimal time.

Automation

Automation is the primary driver of productivity in just about every industry. Automating facility operations is essential to staying competitive. 

Great data loggers make automation easy and powerful. Through creating predictive models, then using those insights gained to communicate with other AgTech systems, the entire Cold Chain process can be streamlined.

With the right electronics and software, Application Programming Interface (API) systems open up a world of possibilities when it comes to cold chain facility operations being maximised in operational efficiency. This reduces human-errors, response times, and labour costs at the same time, giving you a competitive edge in the market.

Real-time actionable feedback

Digital automation is enormously powerful and very much a way of the future for supply chains, but the need for human input and monitoring is still very much required. An effective data logging system is capable of converting its collected information, and delivering actionable notifications to operational stakeholders. Ideally, the information will be delivered with suggestions of exactly what actions the operator should take next in order to maximise outgoings. 

For example, upon detecting a spike in ethylene levels within a cold store, the operating system would push a notification in the form of an email or SMS to an assigned facility staff member. This notification would contain the specified readings that triggered the warning in the first place along with practical solutions to de-escalate and limit potential losses and damage.

Long-term data reporting

Data can also be used to build long-term reports of how a cold chain facility is operating. Having numbers and recordings for immediate action is an instant benefit to operations but long-term reports help give an overview of an operations inconsistency and areas for improvement.

The weeks, months or even years of collected data can be aggregated to identify hotspots, bottlenecks and other problems in the facility. Things that are too subtle or sporadic to be noticed in day-to-day performance. 

Managers can use these insights to tweak their operations and reduce costs even further. Combine this long-term reporting with real-time analytics and you can produce stunningly accurate predictions of how shipments will progress in storage and distribution. 

Ease of installation and use

Data loggers and temperature-sensitive products should provide all of the above features, but shouldn’t require you to refit your entire facility. Having an entire operational overhaul can be an expensive process in more ways than one. An ideal data collecting unit should be quick to set up and easy to operate all the while staying out of sight and not obstructing general operations.

Using analytics, automation tools and real-time feedback should also be straightforward. They shouldn’t require a specialist team to operate. Ideally, you’ll set things up once and have access to all the features of a fully connected data logger on your facility.

Cost-effective

This list may seem to be tackling a bunch of unaffordable cutting edge features especially if you’re using outdated models, but it’s possible to get devices that provide all of these powerful tools at an affordable entry level price. Make sure you shop around for the data loggers really pushing what’s possible in the cold chain. Don’t settle for an expensive, ineffective solution just because it’s the standard. 

Growing competitiveness and pressure to cut costs has opened the market to a range of approachable products that can tick a lot of the aforementioned boxes.

RipeTime’s Environmental Sensor

RipeTime's Environmental Sensor has all of the key features mentioned here. It’s designed to deliver a simple and complete system for Ethylene detection and management in amongst other environmental readings. This device reduces multiple forms of resource waste and increases profit margins for cold chain merchants.

Whichever data logger you decide to go with, be mindful of the features listed and don’t sell yourself short with an inferior product that will ultimately cost you in the long run.

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