Hardie's Fruit & Vegetable Co.
Fresh produce wholesaler with two distribution centers and a fleet of 40 reefer trucks to serve customers in an area running from Wichita Falls, TX, to Monroe, LA.
“Cold chain control” is a crucial business imperative for a wholesaler that warehouses and delivers loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, products that must be kept consistently in temperatures covering a range from warm to cold in order to remain in tip-top condition.
“We have to make sure we do not do anything while handling the product to cause it to perish,” says David Hardie, “and temperature control is the most critical element to protecting each load.
“We must be extremely conscious of the temperature of the product we handle, from the time it leaves a field in California till it reaches the restaurant or institutional kitchen of our customers,” he adds.
“People think higher quality costs more,” Hardie states, “but the further I drive safety and quality measurements along my cold chain, the lower my operating costs go.”
With that approach in mind, in 1999 Hardie began installing a FreshLoc (www.freshloc.com) wireless automatic system to monitor the temperatures of reefer loads while in its two distribution centers and while onboard its reefer trucks.
The FreshLoc system uses tiny sensors, each roughly the size of a wristwatch case, to automatically and continually collect temperature, humidity and other measures and transmit them for access at a secure Internet web site.
If a trailer is used for temporary storage, automatic monitoring and alerting are also engaged. When the truck departs, it automatically begins logging the trip.
When the truck is within several hundred yards of its destination, an arrival notification, which also indicates trip temperatures, is sent to designated personnel. Within a few minutes of arrival, a complete report is downloaded to the FreshLoc database.
“A special web site lets us review the data and there's also a web site that is open to customers that allows them to see our warehouses and trucks,” Hardie reports.
“Using the system,” he continues, “has saved us a surprising amount on both fuel and maintenance.” Hardie notes that the fleet's maintenance personnel can also access the equipment records to keep tabs on reefer unit performance. “Our maintenance people can dial up the machine to check temperatures inside the truck and run diagnostics on our Thermo King units.”
“You can get as much data as you want from the system,” he says, “but you set the parameters that will determine when you receive e-mail alerts that a load's temperature is threatened. We have alerts sent to both our e-mail system and our mobile phones.”
Hardie says he has found the FreshLoc temperature sensors to be very accurate and that they don't require recalibration.
According to Hardie, the return on investment for the system is nothing short of phenomenal. “It pays for itself every month,” he says. “Each time it prevents just one load from going bad it has more than paid for itself.”