IoT Remote Monitoring of Key Assets Should be a Top Operations Priority with Food Service

Food Safety standards are rising across the globe. With the supply chain of ingredients under the microscope like never before, implementing preventative measures to combat foodborne illnesses and to meet industry regulations is now more important than ever. Food suppliers and food retailers must focus on protecting their customers.

The introduction of Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) includes controls and requirements for food safety inspections, transportation of food, and HACCP compliance timelines.

Food retailers now need to monitor food storage, preparation, and display temperatures in multiple places throughout the store including deli, dairy, meat, freezer, bakery and produce sections.

These temperature records are required to be recorded and maintained for up to 2 years to meet the FDA’s HACCP standards as set out under the FSMA requirements. Records must be easily accessible to both the store and the headquarters for both internal as well as Food Safety inspector audits.

With limited time and a significant number of daily tasks to perform, an Operations Manager in a Food Service business might find adding a new Internet of Things (IoT) solution to be quite beneficial and productive to the overall operations of the business.

IoT Food Safety

The deployment of an IoT solution provides a “second pair of eyes” that continuously manages and monitors key equipment within the facility, freeing up time to perform other critical, necessary tasks and activities.

As we all know, a key element to delivering high quality food to the consumer is the ability to maintain food at acceptable temperature levels to guarantee that items are prepared and ultimately delivered to the consumer safely.

A key element in achieving this is to properly monitor food service equipment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as often times issues can arise when staff are not present, or when operations are closed.

If a refrigerator or freezer stops working, not only is there additional expense of fixing or replacing the appliance, but the risk that the food items being stored in the unit are outside of safe temperature (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for refrigerators and 0 degrees Fahrenheit for freezers) is high.

This inventory would then need to be discarded in order to retain quality control of the operation. This cost for spoiled inventory would be substantial and devastating for a food service business.

One way to combat this is by using IoT technologies and remote monitoring solutions to monitor your key investments as a preventative cost savings and brand reputation method. An IoT cloud-based solution for the Food Service business should have four components: Sensors, Gateway, Portal and Mobile App access.

An IoT Monitoring System allows alerts to be triggered if commercial refrigeration units exceed set temperatures desired for food quality and safety.  Multiple temperature thresholds may be set to alert for various situation.  Milk is a good example:  Storage temperature for optimal shelf life would be less than 40°F and distanced from freezing.

If higher than 40°F shelf life is diminished.  Ice Cream is another good example where it should be between -5°F and 0°F.  If warmer, ice crystals may melt and re-freeze causing quality issue.  Monitoring and quick reaction for corrective action can be accomplished with IoT Monitoring.

Temperature Sensors are key in reporting accurate reading, there are multiple technologies such as thermocouples or RTDs for cost effective measurement.  The sensors must communicate to a server providing the collected information.

The core of an IoT system is sensors reporting to a web server where the data collected can be used for corrective action reporting or trending analysis.  Many of today’s systems have multiple sensors using radio technology to talk to a Gateway, where the gateway uses cellular, satellite, or an Internet connection communication to the Web Server.  In cases where immediate corrective action is required many of today’s systems can communicate to select staff with E-mail, SMS Text, or even a voice call.  Escalations can also be setup as needed to ensure issue visibility.

The gateways support actual sensors that are placed on the equipment to continuously monitor each piece of equipment.  The sensors provide a constant flow of data and will trigger an alert when the data falls outside of a set range.

ROI of Food Safety

This allows for immediate response to an issue and proactive maintenance or repair of the equipment that can help extend the equipment’s life. The portal of an IoT solution should not only provide access to all data including reports but allow set-up of configuration of the equipment and users.

In order to enjoy the highest ROI and to attain cost savings through preventative measures, operations and maintenance should be of the highest priority.

IoT offers a survival strategy for precious food service equipment that begins with the continuous monitoring of key equipment and real-time transparency of issues to allow operations to keep a tight rein on unforeseen expenses, and support in expanding the lifecycle of key assets.

Beyond maintaining optimal product freshness, IoT also offers additional benefits:

  • Reduced Waste: In most cases where a commercial refrigeration unit experiences a failure, IoT alerting can allow the product to be saved.  The PAR Tech System has shown us many examples of these savings with various food venues from a high-end steak house, Hotel & Casinos, and Banquet Halls as examples.
  • Food Safety: Where a commercial refrigeration unit experiences a failure, in most cases the reaction time can save the food.  In cases where the staff reaction time may not be optimal, the system allows Food Safety staff to review data and make a decision on scrap based on spoilage.

IoT also offers powerful data and analytics that can track and trace product while in transportation. There is system in place today used by many transportation companies that monitor temperature within a refrigerated container, trailers, box trucks, rail cars, as examples.  IoT sensors track GPS location, open doors, and temperature.  There are valid business cases for these systems based solely on optimal access utilization, whereas food safety and quality are also primary benefits.

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