How to

23 February 2017

Temperature Mapping Explained

For any company operating a cold storage facility, temperature mapping is one process that cannot be overlooked. Basically, the process involves the installation of strategically-placed sensors throughout a cold storage facility in order to measure and record temperature differences at different points within a single temperature-controlled system. This can be applied to something as small as a commercial fridge, or as large as an industrial warehouse.

There are various factors that can affect the temperature at specific points within a cold storage facility. These include the opening of doors, the movement of personnel, the quantity and distribution of stored goods, and the proximity to cooling fans and other equipment. Even the weather can have a larger effect that you may expect on conditions within the facility if systems are not properly maintained.

While the central area of the facility will find it easier to maintain a constant temperature, in corners and around access points or machinery the temperature can fluctuate by as much as 10°C, which is far from ideal for businesses dealing in temperature sensitive products. Biochemical products and fresh food, especially fruit and vegetables, are particularly susceptible to damage due to an improperly maintained environment, so companies in related industries should pay close attention to temperature mapping, acting quickly to correct any variation.

When it comes time to begin the process of temperature mapping, the first thing you will need is temperature sensors to be used to take accurate readings of temperatures at specific points within the facility. The price of this equipment can vary a lot, but it is not recommended to go for a budget option. As stated by CoolPac, budget equipment may only be accurate to within around 2°C, whereas better equipment may see this reduced to as little as 0.3°C. Temperature mapping using inaccurate or unreliable equipment won’t provide much merit, so don’t waste your time with bargain-bucket kit.

In the case of warehouses, but less so with fridges and cool rooms, external weather conditions must be considered. This is due to the fact that warehouses have more external walls than cold rooms or the like, and as such are more susceptible to temperature variations due to outside influence.

Those operating cold storage warehouses will also have to map the system more than once, whereas a single mapping process will likely be sufficient for cold rooms. This is again due to the way in which the weather may cause conditions to vary. As such, it is recommended to repeat the process during times with the most extreme conditions, as your facility with operate differently in the height of the summer sun as compared to when it’s half buried in winter snow.

Load testing is another vital part of the process, which basically involves judging how expected product levels may affect temperatures within your facility. At this point, many people incorrectly divert all of their focus to the number of products stored, their shape and their size, as this arguably has the most pronounced effect of the factors to be looked at during this part of the process. It is, however, not the only variable to take into account during load testing. The condition in which the goods arrive is also crucial to consider. For example, goods arriving already frozen will put less of a strain on the system than those arriving at room temperature to be frozen at the facility, leading to a comparative reduction in temperature variation.

The end game of the load testing process is to verify whether the chamber can cope with the maximum specified load arriving all at once to then be cooled. Before you can consider this step a success, your facility needs to be able to operate effectively both during these times of heavy loading and when already stocked to full capacity.

Once mapping has taken place, monitoring begins. This involves the installation of sensors at any points which were identified during the mapping process as experiencing regular fluctuations in temperature. Sensors should also be placed at more stable locations in order to help with trouble-shooting.

From here, it is basically just a case of ensuring continuous monitoring of the temperature data provided by your newly-installed sensors, taking note of operational data and averages to ensure the facility is operating at peak-performance. Any variation or fluctuations should be corrected as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.