Data Logging System Provides Peace of Mind to Gourmet Creamery
Whether it is covered in hot fudge or served dripping from a cone, ice cream holds an ageless charm. Few people understand that better than Nick Pappas, owner and founder of Lizzy’s Ice Cream, a Massachusetts-based novelty ice cream shop. Pappas has earned the reputation of serving up some of the best ice cream in New England. “Creating exciting and unique flavors of premium ice cream has always been a dream of mine,” explains Pappas. “At Lizzy’s, we produce 25,000 gallons of ice cream per year, and a great deal of effort is put into the process.”
To guarantee that Lizzy’s delivers the best final product available, Pappas must constantly monitor temperature conditions and the electrical consumption of his freezers. If ice cream freezes too slowly, ice crystals will form, spoiling the ice cream’s smooth, creamy texture.
Until recently, all temperature monitoring was performed manually by simply reading temperatures on a digital thermometer attached to the freezer. If his freezer was having issues with temperature fluctuations, Pappas was concerned that he might not be aware of the problem until it was too late. He needed a system that not only monitored his equipment, but also offered alarm capabilities to notify him if there was a problem with the freezers. “I needed to determine if there is an issue with temperature fluctuations or electric interruptions on all of our equipment to protect the integrity of the ice cream,” explains Pappas.
To maintain quality and improve his monitoring strategy, Pappas selected HOBO U12 Data Loggers from Onset (Bourne, MA) to constantly monitor the equipment. These pocket-sized, battery-powered devices can be used for continuous monitoring of temperature, AC current, and other environmental conditions.
HOBO U12 loggers have external sensor inputs that increase the range of measurement options and applications. As stand-alone devices, HOBO loggers can store up to tens of thousands of readings, and operate for up to one year on a single battery. Pappas installed one HOBO logger in each of his freezers. In the main freezer, a HOBO U12 with two temperature sensors and two AC current transformers are mounted to the freezer’s interior ceiling. The second freezer houses another HOBO U12 with four temperature sensors. “Within a few hours, we had the logging system setup, and the loggers started taking readings every five minutes,” says Pappas.
To view and analyze data collected by the loggers, Pappas uses Onset’s HOBOware Pro software and the Alarm and Readout Tool, a plug-in module to HOBOware. HOBOware, which is available for all types of computers, features easy logger launch and readout functions, powerful data plotting capabilities, and an intuitive graphical user interface.
The Alarm and Readout Tool automatically notifies Pappas via cell phone text messages or email when temperatures exceed his specified limits. It also enables Pappas to automatically offload and store data from the HOBO data loggers, which are connected to a PowerMac G4 via an Ethernet connection.
Viewing data over a network was essential for Pappas. “Due to the lack of available space that we have at our facility,” he said, “we had to expand our freezer space in a different part of the building. I needed loggers with reliable data logging software and alarm capabilities that allow me to consistently monitor freezer conditions and diagnose any problems.”
“When I want to view data, I connect to the Mac-based system via the Internet or Ethernet connection and take control of it using Virtual Network Computing (VNC) software. This allows me to view the data anywhere. I can conveniently connect to the network from my home or office and diagnose any problems.” Since implementing the data logging solution, the loggers have been running problem free and even helped Pappas diagnose a major issue with one of his freezers and protect the ice cream.
During one of the hottest days of the year, Lizzy’s was working over-time producing large quantities of ice cream to meet its customer demand when Pappas received a text message from the alarm software notifying him that the temperature in his large freezer had risen above 5°F for 30 minutes.
From his home office, Pappas was able to connect to the Mac-based server via the Internet and view the data, which indicated that freezer temperatures had been steadily rising. “There was obviously a major problem with one of the two compressor units that cool the freezer,” said Pappas. “I drove to Lizzy’s to explain the situation to my staff, and instructed them to divert all the newly made ice cream to the other freezer. We needed to keep the ailing freezer door closed because the single remaining compressor would have trouble maintaining a low enough temperature to protect the ice cream.”
Because the alarm software notified Pappas as soon as there was a problem, he was able to protect the ice cream from damage and have a new compressor installed the next day. “If I had not received that alarm notification, it is likely that the rising freezer temperature would not have been noticed until the next day. This would have caused major damage to my supply and extended the ice cream’s exposure to high temperatures,” he said.
Pappas concludes, “Everyday, I receive a text message telling me that my system is functioning properly, improving my peace of mind. I am extremely happy with HOBOware and the Alarm and Readout tool, and I plan on installing additional loggers and alarm software on more of my refrigeration equipment.”
For more information about data loggers, please contact Onset Computer Corporation at 1-800-LOGGERS, or visit www.onsetcomp.com.