A Matter of Degrees

Today's temperature monitoring technologies help food companies deliver safe, high-quality products.


Another application using the same RF infrastructure is Stationery Temperature Monitoring that monitors and maintains optimal temperatures inside cold rooms and preparation rooms. “Our analytics and reporting capabilities allow companies to examine an aggregate over a desired period to see if one shift is doing a better job than another,” says Darragh.

MONITORING COMPLAINTS AT WAWA

Wawa Inc., with $5 billion in revenues annually, has 575 stores throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. It operates three cross-dock DCs located in New Jersey to handle about 300 SKUs: one for refrigerated products, one for commissary and bakery products, and another for dairy products and drinks.

“It is critical that we receive products at the highest optimum quality to assure product safety and quality throughout our supply chain to our stores,” says Jane Griffith, senior director of food safety and quality assurance. Wawa’s headquarters are in Wawa, PA.

One of the biggest challenges facing Griffith rests in the hands of the consumer. “They don’t often practice proper cold chain management, so I have to account for a 20-percentage factor of product abuse.”

Griffith reports that the most fragile of Wawa’s products is its line of fruit cups, which are assembled in the company’s central commissary DC. “All production rooms are maintained at 34 degrees to 36 degrees to ensure proper cold chain management,” she says.

At the receiving dock, employees prod the products using infrared or bimetallic thermometers to assure the products are at the correct temperature. They also randomly test their most sensitive products such as fresh fruit cups, wet salads and dairy products using recording temperature monitors. These products are tested throughout the trailer at the front, middle and in the nose.

Wawa requires all of their high-risk-product vendors to use recording time-temperature sensors from their processing plants or DCs to Wawa’s DCs. Many products are cut and packaged and in the stores within 24 hours after production, and have a four-day shelf life.

The company uses its own trucks, which operate frozen, refrigerated and ambient temperature zones. ThermoKing’s FleetWatch system maintains and monitors reefer trailer temperatures.

“We monitor our store complaints to see if they have any known or perceived quality issues,” Griffith says. “If we see an ongoing problem, we check the store’s display case to assure that the store is using the correct case planogram. We also check back through the supply chain to assure products were kept at the proper temperature throughout.”

Sterling Solutions conducted a cold chain assessment for Wawa initially (about 10 years ago) and continues to conduct annual cold chain assessments.

“They helped us define our processes to ensure we maintain them,” Griffith says. “For instance, they helped us configure the reefer to assure we are using bulkheads correctly to maintain proper temperatures. They also suggested using fans at our loading docks to blow cold air constantly into the trailer during loading. They also assisted with driver training, helping drivers understand the responsible method to take products off trailers and deliver them into the stores.”

So where is cold chain management heading? “It is evolving into a regulatory tool, but more importantly into a supplier- and retailer-specific requirement,” reports Pacitti. “Cold chain standards have proven to reduce food safety risks.”

Ciarametaro at Legal Sea Foods sees continued technological development. “Cold chain management will be used by more and more companies, with more partnerships developing among technology providers and food companies.”

Ampuja perceives greater use of RFID tags. “This is the next wave as costs for RFID continue to decrease. RFID will provide a real enhancement to cold chain management because of the full and complete history it offers from start to finish. People won’t have to depend on data from a number of different parties along the chain because everything will be completely verifiable.”

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