There are many industries, such as pharmaceutical and food service, that deal with products that are sensitive to changing temperatures. It is essential that these items are kept in a temperature-controlled storage area.
One of the challenges these industries face is ensuring that the entire storage area remains at a safe temperature for these items and that that temperature range is recorded. Because temperature distribution can vary, a single thermometer fixed in a particular area is not enough to record the average temperature of the storage area. Instead, this process should be completed by professionals within the industry using the right equipment, or they can hire engineers. The tests that are conducted are known as temperature mapping.
What is temperature mapping, and why is it important?
Temperature mapping involves the expert assessment of storage facilities, refrigerators and cold rooms. It involves identifying where limits are required and installing the equipment to monitor them.
It also involves the process of recording temperatures in several locations of a storage area. This is performed by installing multiple electronic sensors within an area. These sensors log the change in temperature within this area.
Finally, temperature mapping is most commonly used by pharmaceutical companies and the food service industry because many foods, medical samples and drugs need to be kept at specific temperature. In the instance where a temperature sensitive product becomes too hot or cold, it can become ineffective or unsafe to consume. Therefore, temperature mapping is essential for certain industries to maintain their safety and quality controls.
It is often assumed that a freezer or other temperature-controlled storage units maintain a consistent temperature and do not need temperature monitoring. This is incorrect. Opening and closing storage areas can alter the temperature, as well as the climate of a storage area being affected by heating and cooling systems malfunctioning even slightly.
How do professionals carry out a temperature mapping study?
Temperature mapping needs to be conducted in a storage area before it is used. By doing this, operators are able to ensure that the area adheres to regulatory requirements and that the products that are set to be stored in the area will not be harmed by temperature fluctuations. Following this, the company may wish to collect data after the original survey to ensure that they are maintaining proper climate control.
Before the process of temperature mapping begins, the professional should determine the best positions within the area to install the temperature sensors. These include spots that are predicted to be hotter or cooler than the rest of the area. Examples of this may include near the door, locations that are very high or low crevices that are expected to be obstructed, and places that may get more or less sunlight.
After identifying areas that require sensors, the professional needs to decide how many devices are necessary and how far apart they should be. This is a more precise process than deciding the locations because the loggers must be placed in a pattern resembling a grid. Usually the loggers are placed in two layers, but this is dependent on the size of the storage area. They need to be placed in all corners of the space with at least one logger in the center. This is to ensure that the temperature distribution in the area is accurately recorded so that there are no gaps in the recording data.
Once the sensors have been strategically placed, they will map the climate from each point of the area over several days. For larger spaces this could take up to a week, whereas a smaller area can take as little as 48 hours. This data will be presented as a graph that demonstrates the highest and lowest temperatures in each of the areas that the sensors are located in. This graph provides professionals insight into factors that alter storage conditions. These may be factors such as air saturation, heating and cooling systems, the opening and closing of doors, the addition or subtraction of people or goods etc.
Temperature mapping also reveals which areas are most susceptible to temperature fluctuations. This is where the devices should be permanently placed so that they can monitor those areas continuously. If the report indicates that certain areas of the space reach temperature levels outside the safe temperature range and operating parameters, the engineer can advise the business owners to not store goods in those spots.
How often should temperature mapping be performed?
According to the World Health Organisation, temperature mapping is required before a storage area is used for perishable products such as food or drugs. Whether or not temperature mapping is conducted after the initial test depends on several factors.
For example, if the initial temperature survey shows that there are concerning areas within a storage area, it is likely that the company should consistently monitor changes of that space to ensure they never reach a dangerous level. If the temperature reaches a dangerous level, the company should arrange their storage area or adjust their heating or cooling system,
In addition to this, it makes sense for pharmaceutical companies and restaurants to conduct additional full temperature mapping exercises on a periodic basis. Concerns such as changing in heating or cooling systems, outdoor climate or variations in the amount of products being stored can cause fluctuations that may need semi-regular temperature mapping. The World Health Organisation recommends conducting a temperature mapping survey every three years in these cases.
What kinds of tests should be performed during temperature mapping?
Certain tests need to be conducted during temperature mapping to ensure that the results reflect all the factors that affect temperature within storage units.
A temperature distribution test should be performed while the storage area is empty and it should be performed again once it is full. This will allow professionals to determine how temperatures in a unit fluctuate based on its contents. Mapping the temperatures of the unit while it is empty is not enough to ensure the safety of the products stored within it, and this is demonstrated by the difference between the two tests.
Additionally, professionals should test how the temperature within the storage unit changes and differrs as a result of different events. These events may be how the temperature increases or decreases while the doors and windows are open, or when there are many people or products in the unit. They should also test how the temperature inside fluctuates based on the heating and cooling system’s output to be prepared for any possible malfunctions. Finally, it is important to check how the temperature changes if the storage unit’s power is turned off. This will allow companies to know what the results from a power outage may have on their products.
What kind of equipment is needed for temperature mapping?
In order to conduct a temperature mapping survey, a professional requires multiple temperature sensors as well as computer software to analyse the data. Testo New Zealand are market leaders in providing both of these products, as well as the software required to assist with the installation and execution.
There is a slight variance in temperature mapping requirements within the food service industry and the pharmaceutical industry. Testo provides complete solutions for both of these industries. If you own a company within these industries, you can either task staff within your business with temperature mapping your storage areas, or you can hire an engineer. Either way, get in contact with Testo New Zealand to point you in the right direction for your temperature mapping needs