Whenever you ship cargo, it’s subject to any number of risks. From extreme temperature fluctuations to rough handling and accidental drops and falls, your goods go through a lot while traveling from point A to point B.
And while in many cases, packaging and logistics policies are designed to prevent damage and protect items against the risks inherent in shipping, there are times when the unexpected happens. Unfortunately, some items, such as medical supplies and equipment, electronic, and fragile pieces, are especially at risk from shipping damage. Because the damage to these items isn’t always apparent from looking at the outside, manufacturers and shippers must use additional tools to determine whether the shipments have been subject to mishandling, excessive vibration, or other conditions that could have caused damage. One of these tools is an impact recorder.
The Basics of Impact Recorders
An impact recorder is a device that detects and records anything that may have harmed a shipment at any time during the transport process. This includes any type of vibration, shock, shifting during excessive acceleration, and extreme changes to moisture or temperature. The devices are attached directly to the items being shipped; for example, a high-voltage transformer, and they automatically make hundreds of thousands of measurements during transport and storage to detect any anomalies.
Most companies use digital impact recorders, especially when shipping high-value products that could be seriously compromised by impact during shipping. In the past, impact recording was done using a paper recorder, similar to the seismographs used to measure seismic activity. During shipping, a mechanical stylus would record information on a continuous sheet of waxed paper, which could then be analyzed to determine whether the shipment experienced any adverse events.
As you might imagine, this process was cumbersome. In addition to requiring manual analysis of the impact readings, paper recorders were vulnerable to malfunctions due to jammed paper and running out of paper. Paper recorders are also limited in the amount of information they can provide, and it could be challenging to match impacts to specific times and dates.
The more modern digital impact recorders used by most companies today are far more advanced, and capable of recording more accurate data, and providing almost instant analysis. Digital impact recorders are equipped with alarms, which automatically send information to the shipper and recipient, alerting them to an incident. Based on the information provided, this may trigger additional inspections of the cargo, avoiding potential losses due to damage. However, it does a lot more than that.
Why Impact Recorders Are Useful
When freight arrives at its final destination, the recipient must inspect it for damage. Outward damage is easy to see, and there’s typically a clear case for making a claim. Concealed damage is harder to detect and prove, on the other hand, and making a successful claim requires more information.
Using data from an impact recorder can streamline the claims process, and increase the likelihood of success. It can also prevent problems that aren’t even visible. As mentioned, the data from an impact recorder can trigger an alert and additional inspections. Should those inspections reveal a problem, the shipper can provide a remedy before the recipient has problems. This ensures both safety and preserved the relationship with a customer.
Impact recorders, and the data they collect, also provide insights into logistics and shipping processes that manufacturers and transportation providers might not otherwise have. For example, by comparing data from recorders with data from inspections, it’s possible to develop an accurate gauge of the impacts that actually have a detrimental effect on shipments, and set better impact thresholds for shipments.
In the event that shipments are damaged during shipment, data from impact recorders can also reveal the types of impacts and conditions that are most likely to result in damage, and make better predictions about what needs to be inspected or addressed. In other words, instead of blindly looking for something wrong, the impact data can provide a roadmap of sorts that gives technicians a place to start when determining whether damage occurred.
Impacts can occur at any phase of the shipping process, from the loading dock to the truck and beyond. Understanding when they happened, and how intense they were, is an important tool in protecting your shipments, and your bottom line.