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How To Use Technology To Protect Temperature-Controlled Shipments

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Perishable foods, medications, live animals and plants, electronics, high-value items, works of art – all of it is shipped around the country in temperature-controlled cargo holds and refrigerated trucks. Modern packaging solutions and experienced carrier handling can help ensure that your temperature-sensitive shipments arrive in the same condition they were in when they left. But you can’t predict when a careless handler will leave a pallet sitting on the airport tarmac in extreme heat conditions for too long, or even whether anyone will be there to receive your shipment in a timely fashion when it arrives.

Fortunately, there are technological solutions to help you monitor the temperature of your shipments as they move through the supply chain, and to ensure that your shipments remain within appropriate temperature ranges until they’re delivered. Temperature indicators, along with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, shock and impact sensors, and vibration detectors, are just one tool that shipping and logistics professionals use to monitor and protect shipments. Here’s how they work.

Packaging Can Only Go So Far.

When you’re preparing temperature-sensitive items for shipment, packaging is probably your main concern. You not only need to source sturdy, new cardboard boxes and fresh bubble wrap, you also need insulation and gel packs or dry ice to keep your items within the desired temperature range.

Don’t get us wrong – without the right packaging, your temperature-sensitive shipments stand no chance. You can’t set a pallet on the airport tarmac in the middle of summer without a thermal cover and expect it to withstand the high temperatures it will encounter there. But even with the right packaging, your shipments can sustain temperature-related damage if they’re mishandled or aren’t delivered in a timely fashion.

You Need to Monitor Your Package’s Temperature.

What do you do when a careless handler lets your shipment of perishable produce get too hot? Nothing, if you’re not aware of it — and then the shipment will arrive ruined. What’s even worse is that it’s not always obvious when extreme hot or cold has compromised the integrity of a shipment. Can you tell that your shipment of pharmaceuticals has been rendered less effective by extreme heat? Will you necessarily know whether your shipment of ink and dyes has been allowed to freeze, damaging its consistency?

That’s where temperature indicators come in. Temperature indicators can monitor the ambient temperature conditions your shipments are exposed to, as well as tracking the temperature of the climate-sensitive items in question. In most cases, you can use a temperature indicator on the inside of the shipment to make sure that the contents really are staying in their ideal temperature range, as well as a second temperature indicator on the outside of the package to track ambient temperature. Real-time updates are available with some temperature indicators, so you can see whether a shipment is in danger of getting too hot or too cold as it’s happening, and contact your carrier to make the necessary adjustments.

Using an external as well as an internal temperature sensor can let you know when ambient conditions during shipment change rapidly, in ways that might affect the temperature stability of the contents of your packages. Say the handler leaves your pallet out in the sun – the external temperature indicator would detect that change, and you’d have time to contact the carrier and ask them to bring your pallet into the cold warehouse, before the beating sun has time to counteract the effects of your temperature-stabilizing packaging.

Of course, it’s important to always choose a carrier who has experience handling your specific type of shipment. An experienced carrier will have the equipment necessary to handle your shipments according to relevant regulations, and their staff will have the training to understand the importance of preserving your shipments’ temperature integrity. Plus, there are often industry- and shipment-specific regulations and requirements for shipping temperature-sensitive goods.

Thanks to temperature sensor technology, it’s easier than ever to ship temperature-sensitive items and keep them within an ideal temperature range the entire time. Whether you’re shipping chocolate or medicine, live animals or fine art, your shipments are important, and it’s vital that they arrive in good shape. With the right temperature-control technology, they’ll be able to every time.