Challenges of mobile data collection in the frozen food sector

Increased value creation by capturing, transmitting and managing data in real time

Mobile solutions for data collection have become indispensable in all sectors of industry, such as warehousing and transport, in retail and also in the service sector. Especially for production, it is important that the raw materials or components supplied can be precisely identified and their origin is traceable. The path of the finished product to the dealer and customer must also be traceable in order to ensure high quality standards.

Mobile data capture devices – meaningful helpers when capturing and evaluating data

The main feature of the mobile data collection literally lies in your mobility through connection and transmission using WLAN, GPRS, mobile internet technologies such as 3G and LTE or Bluetooth. Mobile MDEs collect data in real time, which is saved for later processes. Among other things, these devices, such as pure barcode scanners, used to capture barcodes (but also RFIDs). Until this happens, the products are previously provided with barcode labels or RFID tags. Linear barcodes contain a sequence of numbers that is assigned to a product and, linked to a database, provides information about this product and ensures a clear assignment. This is exactly where mobile data capture devices are used. These are often hand scanners, MDEs or mobile terminals. called. Depending on the manufacturer or model, the mobile data capture devices have extensive functions such as a high-resolution camera and the option to enter additional data or retrieve it from a central server.

Special challenges in the frozen sector

A constant ambient temperature plays a crucial role in the production, processing, storage and transport of food. Furthermore, special regulations must be adhered to by the legislator to guarantee cool, safe and hygienic processing. Mobile data capture devices are particularly helpful for frozen goods whose temperatures are down to -38 degrees. Especially in fresh logistics in the food industry, for example, ensuring a smooth cold chain from storage to transport is the top priority. To ensure this, employees must work with particularly durable and robust equipment - from incoming goods to outgoing goods, as well as picking. These devices are called “cold store” devices and operate accurately and smoothly even under severe temperature extremes. If the goods are exposed to temperature differences in fresh logistics, condensation can form and this is problematic for the freshness of the goods.

Requirements for data acquisition devices in the deep-freeze sector

The devices for mobile data collection, which are used in very cool working environments, require special properties due to the temperature differences in the cooling area or humid ambient conditions. In order to ensure full functionality and reliable performance, particularly powerful batteries and displays are necessary. If there are particularly cold extreme temperatures or temperature fluctuations, the heated displays of the devices prevent the front from fogging up and thus ensure permanently good visibility. The scanning windows of the integrated barcode scanners also remain free of moisture and guarantee 100 percent functionality. Another solution to prevent device parts from freezing are heated reading units, touchscreens and keyboards. Condensation often forms, especially when there are temperature extremes. To ensure that condensation does not damage the devices, they are extremely robust and waterproof. The ergonomic design of the devices ensures that they are very easy and intuitive to use – even when wearing gloves.

Temperature controls using RFID technology (Radio Frequency Identification)

At temperatures down to -35°C, only devices specifically designed for these requirements can be used. Cold storage, food processing and food packaging areas are typical areas of application. In order to be able to check the required cooling temperature of the products at any time RFID tags can be used with temperature sensors. The RFID system consists of two components, the reading and writing device and the transponder, also known as a tag. The reading device acts as an interface between software and the data storage on the transponder, in which the information is stored and from which it can be accessed. The transponders equipped with a temperature sensor can record the course of the ambient temperature in their memory. The data can then be read out via the reading device and transmitted to a computer. If a reader sends out a radio signal, the nearby transponder responds and the information stored in it is transmitted to the software via the reader. This means that the path of the pallets is tracked throughout the entire production process and this data is combined with order information and relevant product data. Data tracking and documentation are also of great importance because of the enormous variety of products processed.

Since neither physical nor optical contact is necessary for communication, the data from transponders inside packaging can also be read, for example. Under certain circumstances, the usually insulating packaging material can cause problems with recognizing and reading the transponders. In addition, the reading devices can rewrite the data carriers. During such writing processes, the reading/writing device establishes communication with the transponder and passes on the information from the respective application to it, for example to reprogram it or to program it differently or to add data. However, the stored temperature data is tamper-proof and therefore cannot be changed. These tags ensure and check whether the cooling process has been continuously ensured. Once the cold chain is interrupted, the affected goods must be removed from the trade for safety reasons. In retail, for example, it is possible to check the cold chain and thus control inventory using goods with integrated RFID tags. Furthermore, RFID tags (Radio Frequency Identification), which can store more complex information, have also been developed. This technology has the advantage of recording the ambient temperature of frozen goods and retrieving additional data on the production and lifespan of products.

RFID - Radio Frequency Identification

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