What’s driving the increase (besides simple utility)? Responding to the question via email, Nandini Bhattacharya, Frost and Sullivan analyst stated, “The FDA mandates that value chain participants track and keep a record of the product temperature history…and they have the authority to penalize those who do not comply. This is pushing all the value chain participants to adopt and implement RFID.”
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This trend is not lost on Ray Caron, vice president of marketing and business development at DeltaTRAK, Pleasanton, Calif., a purveyor of RFID technology. For several years the company has been promoting the ColdTRAK system, a cloud-based application, available by subscription, for retrieving, analyzing, and sharing temperature data. The application enables viewing of trip data within minutes of the product reaching its destination.
More recently, DeltaTRAK has launched the ThermoTrace, TTI (Time and Temperature Indicator). “This combines two well understood technologies,” explains Caron, those being the ubiquitous barcode, and, a bit less common, a chemical label that is physically altered by an environmental change. In this case, the chemical expands and migrates, altering the barcode. The combination of technologies results in a single-use TTI label that changes the barcode when exposed to temperatures exceeding a given threshold.
“The data can be retrieved by any barcode reader, or now, even smartphones,” Caron says, and it can be integrated into any existing cold chain program.
In keeping with the adage, “necessity is the mother of invention,” refrigerated transport (reefer) units for trucks have been recently improved. The necessity in this circumstance is being supplied by the impending deadline for compliance with the EPA’s Tier IV emission standards for diesel engines; in response, the invention is a suite of technology improvements called, EcoFORWARD, launched last year by Carrier Transicold, Matawan, N.J., a provider in refrigerated transport systems.
“What started out as a compliance project turned into an opportunity for fleets and customers,” says Transicold’s director of marketing, David Kiefer. As Kiefer explains, rather than just tweak existing systems, why not look at compliance as a byproduct of improved performance. “We figured as long as we have to redesign the equipment, lets do it top to bottom.”
The results of the extra time and effort are high-efficiency refrigeration components with smarter (2.2-liter diesel) engines, operating under the watchful eye of, and controlled by a distributed electronics “APX” system. “The computer is talking to the engine and all the other high-efficiency components to make sure it all runs optimally,” Kiefer says. The APX even has a USB dock to facilitate data downloads.
EcoFORWARD technology has enabled the reduction of a unit’s need of engine power by up to 20 percent, while improving cooling capacity by as much as 10 percent. Further, the units are lighter and use 24 percent less refrigerant. “Altogether, not only are you compliant with better capacity, but units consume less fuel, and that’s better for the environment.”
To keep track of the environment your products been living in, consider investing in a few data loggers. These small devices, like the ones from ebro, a division of Xylem Analytics, Beverly, Mass., operate wirelessly, will automatically notify the user in case of a temperature excursion, and, once uploaded, the data can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection.
“It’s a very simple system,” says Robert Teich, managing director at ebro, “You don’t need extra software, it’s easy to configure…” Teich acknowledges that the unit may not be for everybody—some companies lack the necessary IT infrastructure, or, alternately, it may be the case that third-party logistics are too diverse, harder to organize; in these circumstances the standalone version of the data logger is advised.