With so many different requirements that must be followed with regards to temperature monitoring, including HACCP requirements, The Joint Commission, and AABB, people are investing in automated temperature monitoring systems. Done are the days of manually taking temperature readings, writing the results on a piece of paper, and filing that paper away in a filing cabinet for years. Today, there are systems that allow you to monitor your entire operation at any time and from anywhere in the world.
A system failure can cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory, but sometimes the loss is much greater than just a monetary value. A loss at a research laboratory/hospital can cause years of valuable research to go to waste. One of the most devastating system failures in recent times happened at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. That failure caused the world’s largest collection of autism brain samples to lose approximately 1/3 of their samples. This loss is said to have set autism research back by years and possibly even a decade.
The malfunction was first reported by the Boston Globe. Dr. Francine Benes, director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, was quoted as saying, “This was a priceless collection…you can’t express its value in dollar amounts.” What happened at McLean hospital was attributed to a failure in the freezer’s microprocessor-based digital controls. Their security system did not report the failure and the external thermostat read -79 degrees Celsius, when the actual temperature of the freezer was 7 degrees.
This unfortunate loss shows the importance of having a reliable temperature monitoring system. An automated temperature monitoring system should start with reliable NIST traceable temperature sensors. These sensors should be programmed to take temperature readings at consistent pre-set intervals and instantaneously send each temperature reading to a centralized web-based software. Since these temperature readings are reported in real time, an overview of all the assets in an operation can be viewed at any time.
Warning and critical thresholds should be configured in the system, as well as an alarm escalation process to alert the appropriate people. These alarms should go off if any temperature falls out of the pre-configured range or if there is any system disconnect. Additionally, don’t always trust an external thermostat display. Perform a visual check of each unit being monitored, and if possible, open the unit once a day to make sure that the unit is operating as intended. Having a reliable temperature monitoring system in place, is the first step in assuring that a facility’s inventory, time, and money are not wasted.
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