As the COVID-19 pandemic has made us painfully aware, cold storage in warehouses is vital to our health and safety. The two most popular vaccines require some of the lowest temperatures ever needed for storage and shipping. Temperatures must be monitored to ensure both safety and efficacy of these life-saving vaccines.
But every warehouse that deals with any sensitive assets, such as food, medicines, plants, even artwork, in addition to vaccines, should be temperature mapped to ensure that the entire space is at the correct temperature.
What is temperature mapping?
Temperature mapping is a process in which pivotal areas within a facility—a warehouse, factory, storage building, lab, and others—have temperatures, humidity, or other environmental features measured, recorded, and monitored.
Data loggers—small electronic devices—are placed within a space at various heights and distances from cooling or heating units. They may additionally be placed near points of egress. They track temperature, humidity, light exposure, and much more. The data they gather is sent to a program that creates a three-dimensional map of the space, showing hot and cold spots.
Using this temperature map, warehouse managers and engineers can change the configuration in the space or add heating or cooling units to eliminate inconsistent temperatures that might damage or destroy perishable goods.
There are several reasons to create a temperature map, all of which will save time, money, and potentially even lives.
Temperature mapping helps safeguard your assets
As mentioned above, inconsistent temperatures in your warehouse can contribute to spoilage.
In the case of vaccines, like the COVID-19 vaccines, even short exposure to temperatures above their acceptable range can cause them to deteriorate and may require them to be discarded.
In more mundane situations, such as food, hot spots can contribute to spoilage that’s not necessarily noticed in the warehouse but might happen on store shelves. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that 30% to 40% of all food in the US is wasted because of spoilage. That’s approximately $160 billion dollars in waste.
Much of this may be due to time and temperature abuse. And some of this loss can be mitigated by ensuring that warehouses where foodstuffs are stored are at the right temperature throughout the space, potentially saving millions of dollars.
Temperature mapping may be required for regulatory compliance
According to Dickson, some regulated industries have specifically mandated temperature mapping requirements. In fact, in many industries, such as pharmaceuticals and food and beverage, storage temperatures are heavily regulated.
Government agencies at every level have regulations and ordinances regarding temperatures in storage warehouses. Lack of compliance in this area can lead to violations, fines, discarding of products, or even complete shutdowns.
Having a 3D map of the space helps ensure that you know the temperature in the entire warehouse and that you’re alert to any discrepancies. This can go a long way to keeping regulators satisfied.
When to map temperatures in a warehouse
There are many events that can require a temperature map, either an initial map or a remap.
Here are some of those reasons:
Temperature mapping should be done after any major reconfiguration.
Shelves, walls, and even walkways can affect temperatures in a storage space. As airflow is modified by obstructions, the temperatures can change.
Each time a warehouse is reconfigured, it should be temperature mapped again, looking for spaces where the temperature has changed. This can include the movement of a single set of shelves or storing product in space that hadn’t been used before.
Temperature mapping is vital when handling sensitive products
Some products, like certain fruits and vegetables, can handle some variation in temperatures. Other items, like pharmaceuticals, highly perishable foods, and more, can’t withstand more than a few minutes or hours of temperatures outside of an acceptable range. Even artwork can be ruined when exposed to temperatures beyond certain parameters.
If highly sensitive products are stored in a warehouse, it’s vital that every corner is mapped completely. It can cause great difficulty if most of a shipment of pharmaceuticals is fine, but a portion stored near a hotspot is destroyed by being too warm.
Changing of seasons can have an effect
If the warehouse is in an area where temperatures vary significantly from winter to summer, it’s important to map the space all year long.
In some parts of the world, winter is very cold and will show ideal temperatures in the warehouse for cold storage of certain perishable products. However, if the same temperature map is created on the hottest days of summer, it might be a different story.
A warehouse needs temperature mapping throughout the year to ensure that it’s always at the right temperature, not just when the weather is cooperating.
Temperature throughout the week
It can be tempting to create a temperature map for a single day, especially if you’re paying a service to do it for you.
This can mislead you and your team by not truly representing the temperatures throughout the week as people, machines, and shipments are coming and going. For example, if the temperatures are taken on a Wednesday, but Monday is the day that most of your shipments go out and the doors are open much of the day, you’re not going to have an accurate representation of the space.
Create a temperature map that represents at least a week’s worth of data.
Every warehouse needs temperature mapping
While it’s clear that cold storage warehouses need temperature maps, it can be just as important for regular warehouses to be mapped as well.
If your warehouse climbs to very high temperatures, particularly near the ceiling, it can lead to the destruction of some sensitive materials like electronics. Even if a warehouse isn’t cold storage, temperature fluctuations can still cause losses.
Using the right devices
The best devices for temperature mapping record and transmit temperatures 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Once installed, many can run for years on very little battery power.
Choose devices that are durable, reliable, and cost-effective.
The importance of temperature mapping
Even slight variations in temperature, either hot or cold, can affect many kinds of products. From electronics and art to produce and vaccines, the effects of temperature variations can cost millions.
Comprehensive and consistent temperature mapping with data loggers will help to prevent losses saving time, money, and effort.
When does a warehouse need temperature mapping?
The short answer for any cold storage warehouse? It needs temperature mapping all the time. If you use the right data loggers and monitor the space constantly, temperature abuses will never surprise you.