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Opinion: How smart sensors can help manage cold storage in the food industry

Smart sensors are quickly becoming the norm in the food industry, allowing better control over waste reduction, environmental management, sustainability, and efficiency. They are time-saving, labour-saving and cost-efficient, helping to reduce the risk of unbudgeted expenses through the avoidance of equipment failure, not to mention the reduction of food waste. And that’s only the start of their potential remit; there are many other ways in which smart sensors can provide insights and enhance understanding within the food industry. Bengt Lundberg, CEO of Disruptive Technologies, tells us more.

The use of smart sensors in cold storage monitoring Cold storage monitoring is one of the most important ways smart sensors have impacted the food industry. Providing the technology to simply and effectively monitor food storage temperature remotely at any time of the day or night, wireless sensors eliminate the need for time-consuming manual inspections. Suitable to be placed in fridges, freezers and cold rooms, they deliver data at regular, pre-defined intervals, allowing businesses to not only optimise the food storage environment but also keep track of the temperature of food within it. They allow for a proactive approach towards maintenance, avoiding unexpected equipment breakdowns through performance tracking. Once in place, the sensors work continuously, tracking temperature and wirelessly sending the results to a cloud-based storage system, enabling managers to analyse them whenever and wherever they need to. This not only opens the door to rapid action should any problems be detected or changes need to be made but provides the kind of actionable insights that have been previously unavailable within the food sector, helping with food safety compliance and the reduction of food waste. While these features are hugely beneficial in and of themselves, the sensors come with the further advantage that they can be easily integrated with other work order management systems. If a temperature fluctuation is recorded, an alert can be sent to the relevant team or individual to assess the situation, even out of hours. This allows immediate remedial action to be taken, and the potential for greater damage can be reduced. The sensors also lessen the risk of human error, which can be a significant problem where businesses rely upon manual checking. They can be used to create an ‘always-on’ system that is often not logistically possible for businesses that do not operate around the clock. How can smart sensor technology benefit businesses? While the waste and cost reduction benefits that smart sensors can bring to the food industry are important, they are not the only benefits the technology can bring.

Resource allocation The traditional method of manually monitoring refrigeration units is inefficient and inaccurate. Factoring in the ongoing labour shortage, it is also becoming increasingly unsustainable so the most obvious advantage is that when you no longer need to deploy staff to perform manual checks, they can conduct other duties. Predictive maintenance Predictive maintenance can save on significant repair costs and waste. The data from smart sensors can help businesses identify indications that equipment is deteriorating. When performance anomalies, such as regular temperature fluctuations, are detected, managers have the information to take evasive action easily available in a cloud-based reporting system. Sustainability Through the effective monitoring and management of food storage systems, businesses can also work towards their sustainability goals. With food waste generating around 36 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, tackling the problem is not only a commonsense approach to sustainability but hugely cost-effective for the food industry. A wider sensor network Of course, smart sensors can be deployed for other purposes beyond cold storage. Businesses can improve security through the use of motion and heat sensors. Water and CO2 sensors can monitor the building infrastructure and support compliance, and employee comfort and productivity can be improved by implementing environmental monitoring. When you take control of humidity, proximity and space occupancy, you can effectively manage your working environment to provide the best conditions for your teams. Reducing food waste and improving food safety compliance Regulatory compliance is a huge issue for the food industry. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates that around 2.4 million cases of foodborne illness occur every year in the UK, and some of them are caused by inappropriate food storage. However, with the use of smart sensors, regulatory compliance becomes simpler. With IoT sensors, standards, such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point regulations, are easier to adhere to, because businesses can maintain an irrefutable audit trail with a continuous record of all equipment maintenance, system failures, and temperature data. With the potential to store up to 100,000 temperature records offline and the ability for reports to be automatically created and distributed, there are also great time savings. Can smart sensors change the success of a business? Through the provision of accurate reporting and record-keeping, smart sensors not only remove the need for manual checking but also help businesses take control of waste and support sustainability. Perhaps most importantly for businesses, the technology has advanced to a stage where sensor integration is no longer a highly technical, disruptive and expensive process. More and more businesses across sectors are implementing smart sensor technology simply because it is an easy and accurate way to manage important tasks that would previously have been time-consuming. However, in the food industry, they carry the additional advantages of reducing waste, enhancing sustainability and addressing compliance, meaning that if using smart sensors is not yet the norm, it soon will be.


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