Ask the expert: Why should quality managers consider real-time supply chain temperature monitoring?

Ask the expert, Food & beverage

Every day, food quality managers are faced with the ultimate time-pressure dilemma: What is the most pressing concern of the day? This is in addition to their standard day-to-day workloads, which includes strengthening their food safety programs, managing their document controls, the implementation or updating their quality standards and SOP’s, and managing the daily fires that come across their desks. With the ever-present challenges they are facing within the four walls of their facilities, how should quality managers prioritize the next major projects, when considering all of these other competing priorities?

As quality managers, we often find that those pieces of our program, including the cold supply chain, are out-of-sight and out-of-mind until something goes very wrong. By that time, a major event may have occurred, which might negatively affect our customers and brand. Alternatively, products may have gone to waste, causing substantial operational costs, and even downstream stock outages.

Unfortunately, when things do go wrong, a significant amount of resources are spent collecting the relevant paperwork and other documentation to piece together an incident and determine its root cause, then implement corrective actions and define ownership and accountability. After experiencing a challenging event like this, organizations find that implementing programs to ensure this type of problem is prevented in the future is critical.

Organizations are finding that, as their supply chains grow in complexity, they are posing greater challenges and risks to food safety programs and brand protection efforts. This is especially true as we factor in the challenges posed by international suppliers and locations, the demand for fresh foods and ingredients sourced from afar, and the trend of just-in-time processing. Each of these increases the pressure on the supply chain to work efficiently and effectively all of the time, where a break in the supply chain can lead to drastic consequences.

As food companies begin their technology journeys into the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, it is worth considering the implementation of a real-time supply chain temperature monitoring and visibility tool to help solve these challenges. Teams are finding that having real-time insights over their perishable shipments allows them to change the way they manage their logistics programs. As an added benefit, they are taking advantage of the efficiencies that a real-time solution provides— for instance, by decreasing the time needed to review shipment data.

We often hear about the magnitudes of time that are spent trying to solve issues that arise such as premature spoilage and outages and shortages on the retail level. Many organizations are used to experiencing these issues and have unfortunately accepted them as simply the “cost of doing business.” This is particularly the case in areas that are prone to high heat and for products that are susceptible to temperature deviations.

However, food safety and quality managers should consider the impact that low-level temperature abuse can have on product quality. A deviation as simple as holding temperatures five degrees above the optimum upper-temperature boundary can easily reduce a product’s shelf life by several days. This is especially true for items that are susceptible to temperature abuse, such as fresh poultry. 

Even a single, high-level temperature spike that is sustained for two hours can significantly impact the shelf life of perishable produce items, such as leafy greens. These types of incidents and the next-level effects of stock outages and shortages affect customer loyalty and your company’s brand. Having the ability to identify these types of anomalies enables quality teams to permanently solve these types of persistent quality issues, which can save time and money, and helps to enhance and ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty.

As companies have transitioned to a state of FSMA’s required Preventative Controls within their manufacturing processes, they have also been driven to implement operational processes that analyze risks and prevent them from occurring in the first place. By actively managing the cold supply chain, quality managers are able to move from a state of reaction to proactive, preventative control. 

For organizations that manufacture food products that require temperature control for food safety purposes, temperature management is a mission-critical and required Preventative Control within those processes and operations. How can quality managers assure that once products are loaded onto a refrigerated truck, temperatures will be controlled en route? With a real-time supply chain temperature monitoring solution, compliance and food safety can be tracked down to the product level.

If your company has experienced a scenario in which a load has shown up at a delivery location and was missing its required trailer seal, you may have faced the dilemma of determining whether you should accept or reject the delivery. Your decision might depend on how badly you needed the product, and whether you could ensure that it hadn’t been tampered with. 

With light excursion events, in addition to real-time environmental monitoring, which the Controlant data loggers detect, supply chain monitoring provides an added level of confidence regarding transportation security. Consider how helpful it would be to identify the specific time and location regarding when a  truck’s doors were closed and opened to determine whether they were unexpected, or whether they might have impacted your product. These types of insights enable your organization to accept the load with confidence or reject it based on the cause.

As quality managers, we face competing demands on our time. Having the ability to solve challenges in a sustainable manner can help allow you to focus on other critical tasks. When considering the costs that each of these types of incidents have in the aggregate, and that state of the art technology can help an organization solve these persistent challenges, it makes sense to investigate these solutions for your long-term, systematic improvements.

About Jeremy Schneider, Business Development Director, Food Safety and Quality Assurance, Controlant

Jeremy has more than 15 years of experience in the food quality, safety, and regulatory sector. His experience spans managing food safety and quality systems within several fast-casual restaurant chains as well as food manufacturing, including Boston Market, Chipotle, and Rocky Mountain Foods. During his career, he has addressed some of the most challenging and critical risks faced today by major consumer food brands.

Contact with questions or for more information.