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Shock Sensors for Shipping in the Packaging Industry: How Shock Loggers, Shock Stickers and Smart In-Line Sensors for Shipping Monitoring Stack Up.

According the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA, shipping damage for the food, beverage and consumer products industries averages about half a percent of gross sales which amounts to well over $1 billion a year of damage losses in the U.S. alone.

The leading causes of loss of or damage to goods in transit are:

• Collision, Upset, Overturn

• Theft

• Cargo Handling 

• Spoilage  

With that in mind, it is no surprise that these industries are increasingly looking for tools to monitor shipping. Today we take a deeper dive into the different types of shock sensors for shipping, and the pros and cons of each.

While there are other variations, we’ll compare shock stickers, impact sensors, shock loggers and smart in-line sensors for shipping, as they apply to packaging, beverage and fragile food manufacturers.

Shock Stickers:
Shock stickers are just what the name suggests. It is the use of a series of warning type labels that affix right from the paperwork received to the packages shipped. They are used in conjunction with lower cost impact sensors to try to create “psychological reinforcement” of proper handling procedures and to change the behaviour of handlers.

Impact Sensors
Impact sensors vary greatly, starting with those that detect an impact at a certain g-force with numerous model options that depend on what size of pallet and load. With these it is critical that placement on the package is in a precise location or values will not be accurate. Also, some may only read best at certain angles of force with limited numbers of impacts recorded.

Shock Loggers
Shock loggers would be the next step up and also vary greatly.

One manufacturer states their sensors range in price from fifty dollars to twenty thousand plus. But what varies from product to product is a lot more than price. The functions that may or may not be measured with any given device are vast. Shock and vibration, direction and amplitude, tilt and roll, GPS positioning, time and duration of events, temperature, humidity, light, acceleration and more. Use of tri-axial accelerometer technology is a must for more in-depth readings.

Options to consider include battery life, number of events that can be recorded, data transfer methods including built in Bluetooth and cloud storage, data presentation for analyzing, user definable parameters or just manufacturer settings, range of accuracy of the readings, alarming systems for immediate notification when conditions exceed the acceptable thresholds, where the loggers are to be placed (on the container or on packages), real-time notification or downloaded after shipment, disposable or reusable and more.

Some models come as somewhat basic units with the option to upgrade or add certain capabilities and some do not. Some are disposable after use while others are not.

Smart In-Line Sensors for Shipping Monitoring

Smart in-line sensors have created the most value in the packaging industry; monitoring the shock, impact, pressure and vertical load that bottles, cans and other containers are receiving and where.
Given that sensors are exact replicas of the container being produced and follow the same path on the line, in essence, the smart sensor container ‘experiences’ the line in the same way that the container being processed ‘experiences’ the line.

For use in shipping, the same holds true. Logistics managers will get a more accurate reading when the data is generated inside the box or pallet, alongside the product that is being transported.

Smart in-line sensors are designed specifically to meet the requirements of packaging engineers, logistics and supply chain managers, and quality managers in the packaging industry.

Though the functionality is somewhat similar to shock loggers, the sensors are equipped with a selection of features to benefit these operational teams and are calibrated for the levels of impact and shock experienced in this environment. Some features include tri-axial accelerometers to temperature inputs and an extended battery life to meet the needs of a global distribution network.

Unlike other tools such as impact sensors or shock loggers, with the use of smart in-line sensors for shipping monitoring, shipping trends can be paired with analysis from production processes for a total view of the operation.