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How to Capture Data and Ensure Mobile Productivity in Cold Chain Environments

Posted On: 
August 19, 2022
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Cold chain storage and inventory management are crucial to keeping many food and beverage products moving and safe for consumption. They’re also vital for safe storage of numerous pharmaceutical products, including vaccines, biotech specimens, samples and more.

One of the primary challenges of cold chain management is that many mobile computing and tracking technologies don’t hold up in cooler, refrigerator, chiller, and especially freezer conditions.

Cold and fluctuating temperatures can produce problems within devices used for barcode scanning, data capture and mobile computing solutions. Batteries tend to drain quickly, screens can crack and gather condensation, and condensation can form inside a device itself. Hardware can experience failures that lead to missed barcode scans, inaccurate data entry, and even complete shutdowns or damage.

Loss Is A Big Problem In Cold Chain Environments

When these problems get in the way, workflows can end up literally frozen in time, and they can add up to much bigger issues, as studies have underscored. Recent data shows that $750 billion is lost annually in the food industry due to improper handling procedures and that 25% of produce is spoiled each year due to temperatures not being closely monitored. On top of this, 62% of shippers report that they struggle to track their compliant handling processes.

One common denominator across these issues is the inability to extend best practices for inventory tracking and management into cold chain environments. Much of that is due to hardware that can’t perform in those conditions.

This is why our data capture and mobility specialists at General Data recommend Zebra scanners, mobile computers, printers, RFID readers and temperature sensors for cold chain environments.

Recent data shows that $750 billion is lost annually in the food industry due to improper handling procedures and that 25% of produce is spoiled each year due to temperatures not being closely monitored. On top of this, 62% of shippers report that they struggle to track their compliant handling processes.

 

As a leader in data capture since 1969 and a major mobile computing innovator in more recent decades, Zebra specializes in producing ultra-rugged and extremely durable technologies that deliver seamless performance, even in the harshest conditions such as extreme temperatures. 

The end goal for Zebra is to develop purpose-built solutions for every industry and application, with specialized designs, components, manufacturing and testing to ensure that end users get exactly the results they want, without having to worry about hardware failures or usability issues. In cold chain management, that means delivering the technologies that enable truly end-to-end systems that identify and track products and inventory in real time, including their status and temperature, with unerring reliability.

Zebra's Label Printing, Tracking and Data Capture Products Are Purpose-Built For Cold Chain Environments

A good example is Zebra’s MC9300 freezer mobile computer, which features a heated scanner window, a glove-friendly and freezer-ready keyboard, and an ultra-rugged design that withstands extreme temperature swings, including movement between freezers and room temperature environments.

If you need mobile computing in a vehicle such as a forklift, Zebra also produces a VC8300 vehicle-mount mobile computer with internal heating controlled by embedded smart sensors. It features a frost-free touchscreen and IP66 sealing against water and moisture, as well as a physical keyboard and easy pairing with a corded scanner. This means long-range barcode capture capabilities without having to leave the vehicle.

For cold chain environment barcode capture, Zebra produces arguably the world’s toughest and most indestructible barcode scanners: the 3600 Ultra-Rugged Series. These scanners are built with a condensation-resistant scan window, freezer-rated cables, IP rated waterproofing, and a scanning range up to 50 feet. These devices are also incredibly rugged, and they take drops to concrete, liquid spills, and just about anything you can throw at them without cracking or breaking.

If you’re using RFID labels or tags to track products and inventory, Zebra also offers the FX9600 fixed RFID reader that’s built for rugged cold chain environments with seamless operation, even when it’s placed at freezer doorways or in other locations where it may be exposed to extreme temperatures. Its high radio frequency sensitivity also provides greater accuracy and longer read ranges, and the reader can be mounted on a forklift for optional in-motion tracking.

Cold chain management presents other challenges, such as temperature tracking and monitoring, and Zebra offers great options for this as well; including electronic temperature sensors that can monitor conditions both inside and outside the four walls. Each sensor can store over 16,000 data points, and it can deliver instant alerts on fluctuating temperatures that could impact your products or inventory.

To complete a cold chain management system, a printing method is necessary. Zebra’s ZQ500 Series mobile printers feature condensation-resistant display windows, a waterproof design with freezer-rated cables, and accessory options such as belt clips or shoulder straps. Having this kind of on-the-spot and on-the-go access to barcode label printing is a great way to further streamline your inventory management and logistics, allowing labels to be printed on demand wherever they’re needed.

Talk To General Data - We're Expert Integrators For Zebra Cold Chain Identification, Tracking and Data Management Solutions

General Data is an Authorized Premier Solution Partner for all Zebra printing, barcode scanning, data capture and RFID products and solutions.  If you’re currently struggling with other solutions that aren’t keeping up with your cold chain management needs, or you’re looking to build a system that will reliably and accurately track your inventory, monitor temperatures, and keep your mobile workflows running, contact us. We'll help you take a closer look at Zebra’s solutions and evaluate what equipment would work best for your environment, application and budget. 

To learn more, download our cold storage solutions brochure, or connect with our product experts right now to get recommendations, answers to your questions, and a free consultation.