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Blue Skies usesTempTRIP® time/temperature system to help ensure quality for Africa-to-U.K. fresh-cut fruit shipments
Blue Skies employs more than 2000 people in Ghana, Egypt, South Africa and Brazil and supplies to a variety of customers including some of the biggest supermarket chains in the UK, Europe and South Africa. The company sources fruit (pineapple, papaya, mango, coconut and passion fruit) from local fields and cuts and packs them at local facilities.
"We believe in fair trade by adding value at the source. That's why our fruit is cut and packed at the country of origin. We return value to the local community by creating jobs and stimulating the economy," said Simon Derrick, communications manager, Blue Skies.
However, getting the freshly cut fruit from field to table quickly isn't without challenges. The race against time begins the second fruit is harvested. Unlike other firms which use sea freight that can take weeks to reach consumers, Blue Skies makes use of the cargo holds of passenger aircraft to deliver a fresher, higher quality product.
Before making the trip to the airport, fruit is packed into plastic trays. Depending on the fruit type, four-to-six trays are placed into a corrugated case. The cases (approx. 500-700) are then transferred into air freight cargo containers known as AKE's which are lined with polystyrene and packed with some dried ice. These are then loaded on to Blue Skies refrigerated trucks for the trip to the airport.
Blue Skies Food Technologist Joe Revell explains that once the fruit arrives at the airport its handling is out of the company's direct control. Therefore if a temperature problem occurs it is important to identify how and when it happened.
Since Blue Skies employees cannot be with the shipment every minute of the journey to monitor its condition, the company is relying on the TempTRIP time/temperature monitoring system to tell it exactly what has happened during transit. This is how the system works:
The system incorporates three basic components-RFID smart cards, RFID reader with optional integrated barcode scanner, and the Internet. The first step is helping users to set up an on-line profile which includes shipping, storage and receiving-point data plus temperature configurations, and which parties get to see the results.
The smart cards are activated via the RFID reader at dispatch. (They have been programmed to record temperature every 15 minutes.) Blue Skies places a smart card into some of the containers, before they leave the facility for the airport.
When the containers reach their destination, the smart cards are stopped and the data is uploaded. Results are sent via USB to a dedicated page on the internet. (Users also have the option of mailing the smart card back to TempTRIP which makes results available online within 48 hours.) The TempTRIP system makes it easy to connect the temperature data to the shipment reference for more valuable data reporting and analysis.
"After the data has been uploaded we can take a look at a graph that instantly gives us a picture of what happened during transport. It's got hours on one axis and temperature on the other. We can look at any peaks in the graph and relate them to where the shipment was at that time," Revell said.
"This is valuable information for us, particularly if the product gets rejected by the customer. When that happens, we may end up having to pay a disposal cost and being charged for their loss of profit. If however we have data that can prove that the shipment was subjected to temperature abuse by an external company, we are able to go back and reclaim those costs," he pointed out.
Blue Skies is currently introducing TempTRIP on its shipments to Europe. Since the company prides itself in being able to offer exceptional quality products to its customers, it is important that high standards are maintained throughout the supply chain on a continuous basis. The TempTRIP time/temperature monitoring system helps Blue Skies do just that.
"We were using a different time/temperature monitoring system prior to TempTRIP, however those probes cost about £70 each. They would frequently get lost which would add more expense. The TempTRIP system is quite cost-effective in comparison and gives us instant access to the data," Revell said.
The TempTRIP system targets a broad range of perishable foods (meat, dairy, juices, produce, ready-to eat meals, and other fresh or processed foods) as well as pharmaceutical and medical applications (medications, plasma, devices, etc.).
"The TempTRIP approach enables the data to be shared transparently with all of the channel partners including growers, food processors, distributors, wholesalers and retailers. This is powerful information that can be used to fine tune everything from which coolers, trucks or transportation partners perform better to which products should be rotated out of the warehouse first," said Phaedra Culjak, chief operations officer, TempTRIP.
About Blue Skies
Blue Skies has been cutting and packing just-harvested fruit and delivering it to Europe since 1998. The company grown through its ongoing commitment to delivering consistent, very high quality prepared fruit products and through loyalty to its customers and suppliers.
At each facility Blue Skies applies a culture which it has developed carefully. It is based on fairness in business, respect for each other and above all, trust. By nurturing this culture and forging global partnerships, Blue Skies has become an ethical model for development to governments all over the world. For more info: www.blueskies.com.
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