August 11, 2021
min read

Hot summer days regularly lead to cold storage breakdowns that can happen across the whole cold chain – in supermarket freezers and refrigerated distribution centres as well as in cooled transportation units. Recordings of iMonitor’s temperature monitoring devices show how important proactive temperature management is, especially in the summer months.

The impact of ambient temperatures on cold chain performance

Changing seasons with a change in environmental temperatures can have a significant impact on the performance of the cold chain in general as well as cold storage units in particular. The cold chain aims at maintaining perishable products at the correct temperatures from the point of origin through the supply chain to the end consumer with the help of various cold storage units.Data shows that cold chain performance is impacted by ambient temperatures. A Canadian study on the transportation temperature of fresh-cut lettuce, for instance, found that temperature profiles of the produce during transport and truck loading and unloading processes was higher in the summer than in the winter months.

More temperature alerts in summer

iMonitor has witnessed a strong increase in alarms generated from customers’ temperature monitoring systems over the hot days in the beginning of December. A distribution centre, for instance, received the number of temperature alarms that they usually expect in an entire month in only four days.The graphs below show the temperature recordings of the customer’s freezer over the hot days from 6th until 13th December compared to the recorded temperature in the same freezer from 5th until 12th July. iMonitor’s sensor set off 11 alarms during the December period, but none in July.

Temperature in a customer’s freezer from 6th until 13th December 2020
Figure 1: Temperature in a customer’s freezer from 6th until 13th December 2020

Temperature in a customer’s freezer from 5th until 12th July 2020
Figure 2: Temperature in a customer’s freezer from 5th until 12th July 2020

The following graphs show the temperature of a glass display cabinet of another customer during the winter and summer months. The data shows a clear increase of an average of 2 degrees Celsius in the cabinet’s holding temperature as well as spikes due to warmer ambient temperatures.

July temperatures of a glass display cabinet
Figure 3: July temperatures of a glass display cabinet

december temperatures of a glass display cabinet
Figure 4: December temperatures of a glass display cabinet

Rising outside temperatures make refrigeration units like fridges and freezers work harder to maintain internal temperatures at an optimum level. This can lead to fridge malfunctioning or even results in breakdowns that risk spoilage of the stored food. In addition, each time the cold storage unit door is left open, hot air enters, affecting the temperature significantly and causing the unit to work even harder to cool down.

It is, therefore, even more essential to closely monitor the temperature of cold storage units during the summer months, as with increased temperatures food businesses need to act immediately in case of fridge failures to prevent spoilage and financial loss.

Cold chain temperature standards

Cold chain temperature standards exist for different types of products. Keeping perishables on these defined temperature ranges prevents them from spoilage and, therefore, financial losses for the business involved. The following five temperature standards are the most common in the industry, according to Canadian research scholar Rodrigue:

  • Bananas and tropical fruit: 12 – 14 degrees Celsius
  • Pharmaceutical goods: 2 – 8 degrees Celsius
  • Chilled food: 2 – 4 degrees Celsius
  • Frozen food - -10 – -20 degrees Celsius
  • Deep freeze: -25 - -30 degrees Celsius

Food Safety Standards Australia New Zealand require food businesses to store, display, transport and prepare potentially hazardous foods at safe temperatures. The guidelines of the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) vary slightly from Rodrigue’s standards. The optimal fridge temperature for food businesses is 5 degrees Celsius or lower to avoid the growth of illness-causing bacteria and keep the stored food safe, according to MPI. Freezers are suggested to be kept at – 18 degrees Celsius and lower. MPI requests food businesses to monitor and record fridge temperatures daily to ensure that the fridges maintain food at safe temperatures.

5 tips to manage cold storage temperatures

Simple actions can be taken to avoid unnecessary spikes in temperatures of cold storage units such as fridges and freezers.

  • Reduce the temperature of the cold storage unit to compensate for the warm air entering when the door is open
  • Do not leave the cold storage door open for too long and avoid opening it too often
  • Do not overload the fridge with items of room temperature as it cannot work properly when it is overloaded, or goods are stored tightly
  • Ensure good ventilation for the refrigerator’s fans and vents
  • Check your fridge for ice that might have built up and defrost as required

Temperature management along the cold chain

Maintaining the cold chain is a complex task for food businesses, particularly during the upcoming summer months. With the help of tight temperature monitoring from iMonitor, companies along the whole cold chain have full visibility on and can proactively manage temperature performance.

IoT-enabled temperature sensors monitor the ambient temperature of cold storage units in real-time. Collected data is immediately transferred to the cloud, enabling full 24/7 visibility on temperature performance. Placed inside a cold storage unit, the wireless IoT sensor records the perishable products’ ambient temperature round the clock in pre-set intervals. The remote sensor detects any deviation from defined temperature thresholds and alerts the operator or supervisor so that they can immediately reset the refrigerating system to preserve the perishable products. Proactive cold chain management with the help of IoT-powered temperature sensors can, therefore, reduce stock loss, product recalls and ultimately increase your bottom line and customer satisfaction.

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