Updated: Dec 14, 2020
When looking at the benefits of a monitoring system, most people will only be aware of the alarming functionality (pun intended!) and the data storage for compliance. What is typically overlooked, is the knowledge and power it gives you to make significant cost savings and adjust your operations to run more efficiently. A monitoring system can help reduce your energy consumption, running costs, loss of stock, and help with performance/efficiency. This guide is designed to show you the hidden and possibly unexpected benefits that a Monitoring system can bring you when it comes to reducing your energy usage and cost savings.
Maybe you have a system already? Or maybe you are looking to buy a new system? Either way, I hope this guide can help you to use and/or choose a Monitoring system more effectively to maximise your cost savings and protection of your precious samples/stock.
So, what are these hidden benefits?
Removing the Need for Manual Checks
For many facilities to be compliant, they will need to record the temperatures of their units at least once a day, but quite often it can be more frequent than this. You could argue that you have Staff looking at the units regularly and therefore this isn’t too costly, but time is money, and anyway that we can create more time is surely a wise business decision? Based on someone checking a fridge manually twice a day on an hourly wage of £8.75, it would be accurate to say a daily Staff cost of £4.37, which is a weekly cost of £30.59, or an annual cost of £1,590.68 (this cost is dependent on many variables) however, I believe the real saving is based on where this time could be better spent and therefore you have a real cost and a real saving when you automate this process.
You must also consider that doing it manually opens you up to the potential for errors. The first error you need to look at is human error. This can be intentional or accidental but highly probable. Manual checks are often done on paper which means there is no back-up and there is risk associated with losing the records. Another error relates to manual checks are done using the display on a unit. The reason that this can result in an error is that the display reading is often not calibrated which would mean that the reading displayed is inaccurate.
The other reason is due to the position of the sensor which is supplying the reading. Often, these sensors are placed in a position that is discrete or convenient without the consideration for optimum placement for temperature distribution.
The final error to consider is timing. When manual checking the readings, it is usually written in an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and regimented. This will result in the checks happening at the same time every day. This can be a problem because units’ performance and readings could be drastically different at different times of the day. Without a system recording the readings 24/7, you could potentially miss temperatures reaching a harmful level during the day.
Reducing Stock Loss
This is a cost that will vary depending on the industry but if we say that the stock in one unit could cost between £1000 to £5000. This cost could quite easily be a lot higher and could even be invaluable and irreplaceable. It goes without saying that if you had a Monitoring System that alerted you to an issue with a unit of this value – then you would immediately see your return on investment. If we look further into the cost savings from an alarm event, you will see that it goes deeper than just the cost of the stock. Maybe you would have to take the time to order more stock? Maybe you have a cost associated with disposing of the stock/samples? Maybe you need to run tests on the affected stock/samples? Maybe you have a knock-on effect causing issues in other areas of your business? Maybe you need to write new SOP’s to overcome the issue? The list could go on, so it is vital that you are alerted to an issue immediately so it can be addressed, and vital stock saved.
Reducing Energy Consumption
When it comes to Energy consumption it is important to note the direct correlation between Temperature and Energy consumption. For a unit to cool it must use energy to function and operate. Therefore, you will be able to make a very accurate assessment of a unit’s energy consumption and efficiency just by looking at its temperature profile. The goal of reducing your energy costs is to try and maintain a consistent temperature. If a unit is cooling, then it is consuming energy. There are units on the market that are more efficient than others when it comes to reaching their set point but let’s look at the factors that you can control and the changes you can make based on the information you have from using a Monitoring System.
Let us first look at the importance of setting the correct setpoint. This is not just making sure that you set a Fridge to 4 degrees using the controller and you trust its running at that temperature. This is ensuring that the unit stays at that temperature and it does it consistently.
For every degree of overcooling, it can be as high as an additional 5% in energy! When you consider how many units you have and how many are running much colder than needed (especially Freezers) this cost adds up. The power that a monitoring system gives you in this situation, is that it can be your independent assessor to affirm that the unit is performing at the set point. If you find there is a difference between the setpoint and the actual reading of the internal temperature of the unit, you can use the controller to adjust the setpoint to reach the desired internal unit temperature.
Other factors which can affect the temperature, performance, and therefore Energy consumption, is any damage to the door seal of a unit. Damage to a door seal can easily be spotted but you need to be looking for it to see it. Even the smallest gap in a door seal can cause the warm ambient air to rush into the unit and force the unit to work harder to reach or maintain its temperature set point. When you have a monitoring system, you can identify the energy consumption and the struggle to maintain temperature without having to physically check the door seal for any damage. Once the problem is identified and resolved, it will not only reduce your energy consumption, but it will prolong the life of the unit and reduce the likelihood of any stock loss. Further consideration should also be given to recovery times from general activity e.g. door openings.
The performance of this is not as easy to identify and is not always something that is tested in the factory by the Manufacturer. As you would imagine, several factors will affect the recovery time of a unit such as; ambient temperature, unit temperature, door open duration, stock levels in the unit, unit size, and also the make and model of the unit. All these factors can be identified using a Monitoring system as you will be able to see, in real-time, the extreme temperatures reached, and the time taken to reach the desired temperature set point. This allows you to make an informed decision, not only with the current operations but with future buying decisions. Remember, what gets measured, gets managed!
FAQ’s Is it a hassle to install?
This is a difficult question to answer as it depends on the size of the system and what system you go for. Typically, the installation process should be quick and painless. The things to consider that can make installation more challenging is the way sensors are installed and the IT support required. Ideally, you will want a system with the least amount of wires as possible. Wires need to be routed and that can be costly and time-consuming. Wireless sensors would be my recommendation. Choosing a system that has no IT involvement also has its benefits when it comes to a quick and easy install. As with most installations, if you can achieve the same result involving fewer people, that can only be a good thing, right? Try to find a system that can function without internal IT support. This can also be more secure (please see CONFUSED? Monitoring System Security)
How much is a system going to cost me?
This is a question that is almost impossible to answer, and it entirely depends on your requirements, who you buy it from, and the ongoing support. My recommendation who be to write a list of what you would need from a monitoring system and then do some shopping around. Having your list of requirements will make this process much quicker. Most Monitoring systems are sold through third parties and Distributors and many have access to multiple systems.
Will it affect my current operations?
Yes, but hopefully in a good way! The idea of a Monitoring system is that it works silently in the background providing peace of mind and reducing your workload. If a system does not do this, then it is not a very good one.
I hope this guide has been useful. Please visit www.logicall.co for more guides or sign up for our monthly newsletter below to make sure you don’t miss out on any future posts.
Written by Tom Hunt