Technology

A Quick Guide To Temperature Indicators

Shipping things along the cold supply chain requires great skill, dedication, and control methods. Preventing time and temperature abuse with valuable items is essential to getting your goods to their destination intact. While many companies are facing issues related to covid-19, the threat of time-temperature abuse doesn’t have to be one of them. Using temperature indicators, you can secure your cargo and ensure its safe passage thanks to a robust monitoring system that’s both easy to install and use. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of cold chain logistics or just getting started, using temperature indicators is a simple solution to a complex problem. We put together a quick guide to temperature indicators to help guide you in understanding and using them. Read it below.

Preventing Time Temperature Abuse

In food safety, the National Restaurant Association has guidelines for what it refers to as “the temperature danger zone.” The operational definition of the temperature danger zone is the temperature range in which bacteria grow the fastest. That range? It’s between 41 degrees and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. In a cold supply chain—colloquially known as “the cold chain”—a similar concern can pop up due to the sensitive nature of items being processed and shipped throughout the chain. Sometimes it’s food that’s being transported. Sometimes it’s medicine or another sensitive product that needs to fall between a certain range to avoid spoilage. Along with safe handling procedures, monitoring cargo is the key to preventing time-temperature abuse. A combination of visual inspections, regular checks, and using temperature indicators can mean the difference between a usable shipment and severe spoilage.

What is a Temperature Indicator?

In the cold chain, there are many gadgets and devices used to monitor the temperature while goods are in transit. Temperature gauges, thermometers, and temperature indicators all serve similar functions but are totally separate things. Temperature gauges measure the thermal state of a substance. In a vehicle, many people refer to the analog gauge with the moving needle that indicates engine temperature. The same concept can be applied to cold chain logistics. Thermometers are a kind of temperature sensor that measures the same vectors on a smaller scale. Temperature sensors are simple devices that measure certain degrees of heat or cold, then convert it into a usable format for anyone reading the device. Then there are temperature indicators, which offer to gauge the temperature of a product through a predetermined range.

How Do They Work?

Temperature indicators work by sensing the temperature through a chemical inside the tag. As the chemical reacts to the temperature around it, it begins to change color. Using a single-use temperature indicator can also track time-temperature abuse. Many indicators are single use tags or devices that stick right onto the inside of the box or cargo. Over time, it will measure any changes in temperature and chart the severity of the change. The Indicator has dots that will change color to indicate the temperature change and will change to a darker shade the longer it’s exposed to those higher temperatures.

What Are They Used For?

Temperature indicators have a critical purpose: to indicate the temperature of your shipment! Their uses involve the quality control of raw materials and products during transport. Some devices can also monitor the individual times where temperature varies. Using a state-of-the-art temperature indicator in shipments reduces risk, spoilage, and damage. Vaccines and life-saving medicine often require incredibly cold temperatures during transport. They’re also extensively used in live tissue transport, such as organs needed for a transplant. Beyond medical applications, temperature indicators are useful for maintaining the temps of raw food and other raw materials. These simple little devices serve a critical purpose and have broad applications in cold supply chain logistics/management.

Temperature Sensitivity Ranges 

As one might imagine, temperature indicators are handy little gadgets that offer to measure a vast array of temperature sensitivity ranges. Anyone working in cold chain logistics—including suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers—is going to know at what temperatures their goods are going to suffer damage. The ranges for a typical temperature indicator are as follows:

  • -18°C / 0°F
  • 0°C / 32°F
  • 5°C / 41°F
  • 10°C / 50°F
  • 20°C / 68°F
  • 25°C / 77°F
  • 30°C / 86°F
  • 37°C / 99°F

A single-use indicator will change color accordingly when it reaches or exceeds one of these ranges. Using this guide to help assess the temperature of your cargo can reduce damage or temperature issues along the entire chain. Some temperature indicators can be customized to other ranges as well. Implementing the use of temperature indicators for your heat sensitive cargo is a common sense decision that will save you time, money, and spoilage in the long run.

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