If you are responsible for shipping an exceedingly temperature-sensitive product from here to there, you need to do more than hope that your shipping partner can maintain your freight at a stable temperature. To ensure that you have as much information about your shipments as possible, you should use temperature indicators and sensors applied to the packaging, which will tell you whether your goods have been compromised through exposure to high or low temperature and how you might take steps to mitigate damage to your shipments or company.
However, there are many different types of temperature indicators to use in shipping. Here is a guide to help you determine which indicators will help you get your temperature-sensitive products safely to their destination.
Temperature Indicator Labels
Temperature indicator labels are the simplest indicator tools companies can use to monitor the temperature of their goods. These labels tend to use thermochromic chemicals, which will change color when subjected to temperatures outside a certain range. There are temperature indicator labels for almost any range of temperatures a company might need, and some labels contain several levels of temperature ranges, so companies can track the progression of temperature. Usually, temperature indicator labels are single use; when they change color in response to temperature, the change is permanent, which allows users to observe an unacceptable temperature change even hours after the fact.
As the name suggests, time-temperature indicators track time as well as temperature. Though different labels will function in different ways, most time-temperature indicators begin tracking time from the moment of thermal exposure. The label will change color, indicating temperature conditions beyond certain acceptable thresholds, and then the label will continue to change color in a certain way as minutes or hours pass beyond the exposure. With this extra information, shippers and carriers can work to mitigate thermal damage where they can.
Another type of temperature indicator with a helpful name, thermometer labels contain thermometers, which will show changes in temperature in real time. Like other types of thermometers, thermometer labels are reversible; they change with the temperature, displaying only the current actual temperature of the environment. Thermometer labels are rarely used in shipping, as they do not store information in a way that can provide meaning to companies and their customers. Rather, thermometer labels are more common in spaces for storing temperature-sensitive goods, like aquariums, plant nurseries or refrigerators.
Temperature recorders are high-tech temperature-tracking tools that go beyond indicating when temperatures have moved beyond a certain range. These tools continuously collect information about the temperature of a shipping environment and send that data back to carriers, shippers or other interested parties. Thus, a company recognizing an unwanted temperature may interrupt a shipment before it is delivered to make changes and mitigate harm. Many temperature recorders are programmable, meaning that companies can set their own temperature thresholds, giving companies more acute control over temperatures during shipping.
Color Change Ink
Temperature indicator labels are carefully designed to provide useful information about temperatures, but some companies want an even simpler tool for indicating changes in temperature. Color changing inks and waxes can be applied to any surface by companies interested in observing temperature exposure in smaller or more discreet locations. Because most color changing inks go on white or clear, companies can hide their use but enjoy the temperature monitoring the inks provide during transit.
Liquid Crystal Materials
While most temperature indicators rely on chemicals to demonstrate changes in temperature, these indicators use liquid crystals to track temperature changes. Initially black, liquid crystal materials will shift into the visible color spectrum when subjected to heat; different levels of heat will result in different colors. The result is a beautiful and informative tool for tracking temperature events on different types of products and packages.
Custom Temperature Indicators
If none of the above solutions is suitable to keep freight safe during transit, companies can work with manufacturers of temperature indicators to develop their own sensors for monitoring temperature during shipping. Custom indicators may have unique features for monitoring temperature and other conditions, like humidity, or they may merely be branded with special coloration and company names and logos. Custom indicators will cost more than the typical indicators available to everyone, but for some organizations, customization is valuable and necessary.
Until you are certain which temperature indicators are right for your company, you might experiment with a few of the options listed above to enjoy greater information about the temperature of your shipped goods.
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