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Test and measurement gaining speed

21 May 2015

Established over 50 years ago, German manufacturer of test and measurement equipment Testo is increasing its focus on the UK food and beverage market. Warren Mansfield-Smith, Sales Unit Manager for the Food and Drug sector at Testo looks at how test and control can benefit the food supply chain.

Testo has over 2000 employees across 27 worldwide subsidiaries and a turnover in excess of €200 million. While their business in the UK has traditionally been in the heating and plumbing sector, the company is focusing more and more on the food sector, supplying sales, service and technical support for their products.

What are the main risks that you’ve identified in the food and drinks sector?
Most of the risks in food handling are governed by legislation, and every food business should have a HACCP plan. Failure to comply with a HACCP plan can have devastating consequences, not only for the customer who is at risk from undercooked food or poor hygiene, but the food operator risks prosecution and a huge financial loss. The other main risk of poor food handling is to the business itself. Poorly handled food, or food that isn’t prepared correctly, leads to a poor quality finished product and can result in a business losing its customers. Testo’s instruments ensure the customer receives optimum quality. From thermometers, data loggers and wireless temperature monitoring to ensure products are stored, prepared and cooked to the correct temperature to a Testo 270 cooking oil tester to ensure any fried products are produced perfectly every time, these products ensure food companies meet their legal requirements and can help improve efficiency and, in the long term, lower operating costs.

What parameters can be monitored in the food industry and why should they be?
Arguably, temperature control is the most important parameter to monitor as food should be transported, delivered, stored, cooked and served at the correct temperatures to protect the consumer. Data loggers can record temperatures during transportation at set intervals and allow the data to be downloaded to a PC to prove due diligence, and the latest loggers feature NFC technology and can send a PDF report to an Android smartphone or tablet, removing the need to connect to a PC at all. Delivery temperatures are easily managed with infrared thermometers where surface temperatures are displayed in an instant, or Testo’s 104-IR combination thermometer gives the convenience of instant readings from infrared and the security from a more accurate fold out penetration probe. Storage temperatures can be automated by implementing an automatic wireless system. And finally, the cooking and serving temperatures can be taken via a handheld thermometer.

How can test and measurement specifically benefit food processors?
As well as helping to adhere to legislative requirements using test and measurement devices, measurement technology can also bring significant cost savings and process improvements. Testo manufacture a wide range of products that aren’t traditionally associated with the food processing industry, such as thermal imaging. Customers use thermal imaging to identify hot spots in ovens to reduce fire risk, which helps to lower insurance premiums, or ineffective seals on refrigerated units which can bring an immediate reduction in overhead costs from energy wastage and reduces the risk of downtime to repair them. And for quality control, a thermal imaging camera can identify hot and cold spots in an oven, which is particularly useful in baking applications where the temperature range across the band of the oven can be checked at a glance to ensure all products are cooked evenly.

How can test and measurement specifically benefit food retailers?
Labour costs are a huge factor when managing HACCP and temperature control. By automating the collection of this data using a wireless monitoring system, companies are not only offered a rapid return on investment but the system can provide more accurate and up to date information, and also alerts operators if temperatures move outside set parameters, which can reduce the risk of food wastage. For an investment of £600, a processor or retailer can continuously monitor five refrigerated areas taking readings every 15 minutes with an email alert if temperatures move outside their set limits. This information is then stored in the Cloud, which removes the need for paperwork. Compared to the cost of paying an employee to take readings at least twice a day, whose time could be better spent in more productive endeavours, then the savings soon mount up.

What’s coming up in the test and measurement market? And how will it benefit the food industry?
As the demands of governmental authorities and retailers increase in the industry, Testo aims to provide solutions to automate processes and remove or limit the amount of administration required to collate the data required. By capturing the data electronically and using technology like the Cloud, this information is now more reliable and readily available at the click of a button. There are some fantastic products in the pipeline to assist food processors and retailers to meet the ever increasing demands of offering top quality products while driving down costs. 

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