MSR145 in use by product control company IPC Hormann GmbH

From flat screen monitors of all sizes through to valuable Chagall paintings for a forthcoming art exhibition - there's hardly a product that cannot be sent around the whole world these days. In addition to logistical challenges, global routings for consignments also carry an attendant risk of criminal activity. Sending the mini dataloggers along with the goods allows the circumstances surrounding damage to be reconstructed and cases of manipulation to be proven.

Often, the journey from the sender to the receiver can take months and be routed through several continents. In addition to logistical challenges this also provides a huge breeding ground for criminal activity. Product control companies are playing an increasingly important role here. IPC Hormann GmbH is based in Walsrode and is one of the leading international product control companies that has specialised among others in the areas of consulting, quality assurance, loading and export control for goods traffic.

War on "sticky fingers" - with MSR measurement technology

"There is considerable corruption", reports Managing Director Friedhelm Hormann. "Some people employed in the logistics chain are highly creative when it comes to getting rich with illegally obtained goods." His company has now declared war against the "sticky fingers" of the logistics world - with the use of modern and innovative measurement technology from Swiss manufacturer MSR Electronics GmbH.

Following consultation with the measurement technology professionals at CiK Solutions GmbH (MSR Electronics sales partner) in Karlsruhe, IPC Hormann has been using the MSR145 datalogger for monitoring goods in transit. The robust mini loggers have a memory capacity for over 2 million measurement parameters and are capable of simultaneously measuring and recording the five parameters most important in the transport sector: Temperature, humidity, air pressure, light and 3-axis acceleration/attitude. This data is fully secured against access by third parties and therefore, protected against manipulation. Hormann explains, "we had previously discussed the problem with technology providers who wanted to sell us bulky video equipment that needed huge batteries and that was far too expensive. We then researched the Internet for sensors. The MSR performance data more than convinced us that this would be the direction to go." In addition to its sophisticated technology, the MSR145 is also distinguished by its small size, reliability and stability. "Sometimes we place the minilogger inside a container in Argentina and the next time we see it is when it arrives in Eastern Europe. Three months can easily pass in between. The device must therefore have a very long battery life, especially at low temperatures. Furthermore, we can send the MSR logger quickly and flexibly from A to B because of its low weight and small case - depending upon where we should happen to need it in the world."

Light as the most important parameter

The method of affixing the lightweight logger in a container is also flexible. It is usually placed inside the doors on the left or right on the vertical walls. From this position it is best able to record any subtle changes in light and is furthermore unlikely to be discovered here. Even if thieves should discover the device, the time it takes before this actually happens means that they are usually caught anyway!

Measurement of light ingress is therefore, the most important parameter in the fight against access to the goods by criminals. But other measurement parameters provide clues too: The temperature reveals gaps in the cooling cycle, for instance during the transportation of foodstuffs or when delivering highly sensitive film material that may only be transported under cool conditions. The MSR145 also records shocks, important when transporting glass, and air humidity in containers carrying valuable objects of art that are highly susceptible to humidity variations.

At the point of delivery of the goods the data recorded by the logger will only be looked at in detail if there is reason to believe that light has ingressed or when the consignment is found to be incomplete, there is other visible damage or if the temperature of the consignment is incorrect. This last point is checked at the point of delivery using supplementary measurement devices. Should a deviation become evident, then the data recorded by the logger is carefully analysed in order to find the root cause of any damage sustained during shipment. The logger is however, always initially brought to the offices of IPC Hormann where all data stored in its memory is read out and archived for a period of two years before the device is reconfigured, enabling it to be sent on a yet another journey.

Greater security through monitoring

Over the long term, Hormann expects that the use of the mini dataloggers will result in less damage, fewer headaches and a reduced number of claims for damages in international goods traffic. "As a control company we are always dealing with various different parties. Each only tells us its benefits and strengths but only seldom communicates its weak points. But if temperature damage continuously occurs during the transportation of sensitive goods worth 130,000 euro, then the cause must be determined. Several times we have been completely surprised ourselves at what the MSR datalogger has brought to light!" Importers repeatedly attempt to make product control companies liable for the whole gamut of errors. The competition - often equipped with inferior measurement devices - has often conceded liability, but with huge losses as a result. IPC Hormann on the other hand, has a clear position that the boss himself brings right to the point: "We are not an insurance company. With the dataloggers we ensure importers have excellent tools. What they do with them is their concern." In the course of improving quality assurance the everyday use of the handy MSR dataloggers has now become indispensable for IPC Hormann GmbH.

Considerable preventive effect

Hormann's conclusion speaks for itself: Of the 800 deployments of the MSR145 to-date it has been possible to prove eleven instances of illegal access to goods. We must however assume that containers are opened without authorisation far more frequently in cases where criminals had realised that the sensor was in place inside the container and had closed its doors again without removing any goods. "This means," according to Hormann, "that there is a clear preventive effect!" But local criminals are not stupid. They will always find ways and means of circumventing even the most advanced of dataloggers, which means that continuous development of sensor technology will be an exciting challenge for the future. There is a ready and waiting market for this - worldwide.

For More Information Contact Interworld Electronics