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  • HACCP Inspections: Active Managerial Control

    The FDA’s stance on Active Managerial Control

    More now than ever, the active communities of review and ranking sites have provided a clearer window into restaurants and food establishments, and needless to say, this transparency and honest feedback is invaluable to owners and consumers alike. With that said, restaurant owners and operators are also tightening their in-house food safety practices to prevent spoilage and bacterial infestation. In the larger picture, these practices reflect well on the operational capability of the establishment, and also serve to prevent the stigmata of food inspection violations. 

    The FDA has long published documentation on prevention and adherence to the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) preventative approach for food service. Still, many restaurant owners and operators are unaware or unfamiliar with these practices and suggestions, and to this day, health inspectors are suspending licenses and punishing these businesses for failing to comply. While reviews and consumer feedback are invaluable to the welfare of a restaurant or food establishments, these inspections are not to be overlooked or ignored. The following explication of active managerial control serves to inform you about the basics of HACCP, and what you should expect from a visit with the health inspector.

    Temperature@lert HACCP Food Safety Monitoring

    One of the primary objectives of a health inspector is to observe the level of active managerial control, or as the FDA defines “the purposeful incorporation of specific actions or procedures by industry management into the operation of their business to attain control over foodborne illness risk factors.” In short, such actions and procedures are a preventative and proactive approach to food safety, as opposed to reactive post-disaster tactics. Following this approach is critical for any food establishment or restaurant to ensure best practices in the kitchen. The above statement specifically cites foodborne illness risk factors, of which are outlined below.

    • - Food from Unsafe Sources (farms, meatpacking plants, etc)
    • - Inadequate Cooking (to subpar temperatures)
    • - Improper Holding Temperatures
    • - Contaminated Equipment (bacteria, mold, dust, etc.)
    • - Poor Personal Hygiene (for line cooks, chefs, and prep personnel)

    The health inspector will be focusing on these five points of failure as they represent the most sensitive areas for food safety and food consumer protection. There are a number of tactics that can be used to avoid these risk factors, and while some dwell in the neighborhood of common sense, others are not so obvious. The following food safety management tips are taken directly from the Regulator’s Manual for Applying HACCP Principles to Risk-based Retail and Food Service Inspections. Consider this a quick ‘cheatsheet’ for your next inspection and be sure to employ as many of these smaller strategies to conquer the larger goal of safe food practices. These represent FDA-approved guidelines for HACCP compliance.

    • Standard Operating Procedures for critical operational steps in a food preparation process. This includes cooling, heating, reheating and holding.
    • Recipe Cards or ‘cheatsheets’ that contain specifics steps for individual item preparation. This should include important boundaries such as final cooking temperature, verification and directives for temporary storage.
    • Monitoring procedures for preventing bacterial growth, spoilage and proper cooking/holding temperatures.
    • Record keeping. These include temperature records, employee records and equipment maintenance and upkeep documentation.
    • Health policy for restricting ill employees from the establishment.
    • Specific goal-oriented plans, such as Risk Control Plans (RCPs) that are used to control specific and more incremental risk factors.

    In the next piece, we’ll dive further into these incremental risk factors and RCPs that can easily be employed in your restaurant or food establishment. Remember that while the world of online reviews can boost your consumer reputation, the food safety management suggestions from above are equally as important for the long-term livelihood of your business.

    Temperature@lert HACCP Food Safety Monitoring

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  • Investors And Temperature@lert: Staying Independent

    Investors and Temperature@lert: Staying Independant

    The Trouble with Investors:

    It's tough being a small business, but even more so with the presence of investors. When there's mounting pressure to multiply profits or quickly evolve, entrepreneurs will face a tough path of balancing their dreams and aspirations with the interests of those investors. The divided interests pose a difficult question for any business owner or CEO, which is "how can I maintain the company's culture and overall success, while also satisfying the needs of my suited finance partners?". It boils down to a tug-of-war, in which competing interests and ideas can stunt the company's progress and growth. Investors have their individual agendas that can be closely aligned with that of the owner, but this isn't always the case. Hours can be spent in the preparation for a visit from investors, and sometimes conversations can carry into left field. Even with six-figure investments and their highly intelligent representatives, talk can be cheap (and a waste of time!).

    Shift the angle to Temperature@lert, and we have no official relationship with any investors, public or private. Based on the difficulties stated above, our independence stands to benefit our culture, our productivity, and most importantly, the research and development that directly affects our ability to innovate and evolve. But along those lines, most of our hesitation (and more often, rejection) to taking outside investors is because our customers are the lifeblood of the company, and we don't want to divide our time between satisfying both investors and customers. We exist for our customers, and solely for their benefit.


    Roundtables:

    We have roundtables (at least) twice a month, and instead of feverishly preparing revenue charts, projection analysis, or any potpourri of reports that somehow represent our "progress", we use these roundtables to focus on our development, our next great product, and most of all, the needs and concerns of our customers. And the truth is, when we focus on our product development at these meetings, we stay away from devilish tricks to calculate the maximum "return on customer" or any attempts to align our margins with any type of projection or demand. For us, the idea of profits or revenue generation comes second to our customers, and that means within support, continuous innovation, and a focus on "people" rather than "numbers".



    People


    And further on the concept of people, our maintained independance has allowed us to keep a rock-solid core of employees. There have been no layoffs, no downsizing, and no "Bob Slidell" to keep tabs on the "observed productivity" of our team. Our methodical and systematic growth can be partially attributed to the contributions and ideas of our existing team, but also from the newer members that are still 'green'. When a customer calls with a concern or complaint, our desire to respond as rational human beings, and not as profiteers, is a huge part of our "customer first" philosophy. New hires must understand this concept, and they undergo extensive training to ensure their commitment to this idea.
     


    Products

    We apply the same philosophy to our products. When we create a new product, every circuit board, every software tweak, and every feature is geared towards improving the benefits and options for our existing (and future) customer base. Since we don't have outside investors, we don't face pushback for implementing features that may drive up our costs or that may minimize our revenues. Sometimes we face tough developmental-based decisions that may inhibit our profits, but we've shown a commitment to keeping the customer in the driver's seat for each innovation. It's not necessarily about providing customer service; it's about creating a reliable and beneficial service for our customers. 
     


    At the end of the rainbow, all of this is made possible by our independence, and while we field several investment inquiries each month from a host of private and public companies, we'll continue to align our interests with those of our customers, and not with any outside investors. 



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  • Nickel And Dimed: Temperature Sensors And Warranties 2

    Nickel and Dimed: Temperature Sensors and Warranties



    Why the fine print matters, and what you might've missed.

    Let’s pose a brief hypothetical situation. Suppose I’d like to buy the newest car model X, and my willingness to purchase (after conversations with a dealer, a chatty salesperson, and some personal research) is relatively high. You might consider me a “high quality prospect”.

    Now let’s say that aside from the trimmings, the options, and the enticing “metallic colors”, I’ve come to the warranty, or what we might call the fine print. The warranty is listed as a  “five year” warranty. This gives me some peace of mind, and is comparable to the other warranty options in the car market (again, hypothetically speaking, this is not usually the case). Overall, it seems like my bases are covered.

    But before I push the paperwork around, I find an asterisk alongside the general hardware warranty, and my eyes float to this section:

    “Limited 1 year warranty”

    Turns out, the superstar engine is listed in this 1 year warranty period.

    Since my engine only has a 1 year limited warranty, I’m taking a tremendous risk after that first year. If my engine fails for any reason, I’ll have to replace the entire engine, and as a replacement part, the engine can be can be a huge financial drain. While my base warranty covers the larger pieces of the purchase, the critical piece (the engine) is stripped from the 5 year promise, and I’m out of luck if I have engine trouble. This sounds ridiculous; the critical component of the car is “out of warranty” before the car itself.
     

    Temperature Sensor/Unit Warranties

    Let’s shift gears (pun intended). In the temperature/environmental sensor industry, vendors typically supply adequate warranties with their devices and products, usually for a minimum of one year. Here at Temperature@lert, we provide a 1 year warranty for all of our hardware, and unlimited support and software upgrades (at no extra charge). We understand that mishaps happen, and our extensive warranty reflects our desire to reach a solution, whether the issue stems from the base unit or from the sensors.

    One of our beloved competitors, AVTech, has a warranty model that bears a striking similarity to the hypothetical car example above. There’s a one year warranty for their “Room Alert” product line, but their sensors and accessories are listed as having a “Limited 90-Day Warranty”. This means that customer hardware (the base unit) is insured for 1 year, but the actual sensors, the components that enable the device to function as a temperature sensing product, are restricted to 90 days. As a result, AVTech’s warranty agreements strip customers of no-cost replacement for sensors after 90 days, while their base units (which require sensors!) are eligible for no-cost replacement after 1 year. If their main game is “sensors”, why would they put a harsh cap on warranty eligibility? How does the customer benefit from having a “supported” base device with internal sensors that are “out of warranty”?


    Wherever the answer lies, Temperature@lert has maintained the same warranty and support policies since our founding. We can’t surmise why AVTech chooses to use this fractured warranty policy, but our goal is to provide reassurance, reliability, and a fair warranty agreement for all of our customers (big or small).


    For more information on Temperature@lert’s products, services, and warranty agreements, please visit our homepage. 

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  • Temperature@lert's Expertise: Best Practices In Support

    What is Support?

    The short answer is pretty straightforward. Particularly for technical products and services, customer support and service is a critical component of a relationship. Forget about the sale, forget about the logistics and shipping and forget about the “client win”. A client won is easily a client lost with poor or misguided support procedures. And those procedures, complex or simplistic, form the fundamental foundation for a user experience. The sensor industry is no stranger to this concept,since temperature sensors and other monitoring devices are often used as a safeguard for quality assurance, product safety, and various regulation standards.

    There is a high degree of visibility and sensitivity for support in the onset of a sale; a sales receipt and a support ticket shouldn’t come as a bundle, and users are highly sensitive to such initial support troubles. Think about it: they’ve just made a ‘new’ purchase, and troubleshooting the purchase (immediately afterwards) sounds like an instant headache. If the product is new, why doesn’t it work out of the box? Of course, this is all dependent on the product being used, the level of technical expertise required for support, and the sensitivity of the product to business operations and/or personal needs.Support may be critical, support may be simple, support may be hardly relevant; it depends on the product. But any support system or team must ultimately rely on...


    The Golden Standard of Informed Support:

    It’s not enough to have a pack of geniuses in the support system, or a highly personable smoothie with a knack for calming customers. Especially with a technical product (and a technically savvy customer to boot), customers and support have a relationship that mirrors that of a teacher and student. If the teacher is unable to provide informed and researched information that benefits the students (via knowledge, insight, or test preparation), the students are disinterested and frustrated that the supposed “educational leader” is stumbling on the provision of valuable information. Likewise, if support staff members are unable to provide succinct and “tried and true” solutions for customers (along with bold and new improvisations), discontent and frustration can enter the equation. Overall,  customers view support personnel as educational leaders in the same way, and are understandably receptive to guidance in foreign territory. Still, if the guidance is poor, the relationship will sour as a result.

    Take cloud computing as an example; the popular mission-critical computing venture that can significantly improve performance and reduce overall business costs on data, storage and servers. If you switched your entire organization to a new cloud provider today, and by tomorrow your engineers and system administrators were ranting about the problems and lack of service and support, you’d be quite the regretful business owner (and rightfully so). The cloud computing rabbit hole is deep and terrifying when support and customer service fail.

    Going further past the initial sale, support has a valuable and important role in the lifecycle of the customer. Sales teams are the “boots on the ground”, but support staff members are the “angels in the sky”. They represent an eternal shield of protection for the customer, the product, and the overall experience with your business (though depending on your support policies, this may not be eternal).

    As a final note, consider the ROI of all of your (satisfied) customers, and recognize that without product satisfaction (specific to support quality), they are ONLY your customers if support maintains progressive trust. Our support staff (for Temperature@lert) is devoted to the golden standard of informed support, and many of our competitors lack the instant phone services and in-house insight that we bring to our customers.  The sensor industry relies on this adage more so than a shoe retailer, but any fabulous product must be complemented by receptive and informed support staff members. You want users to be reassured of not just the product, but the quality of service for the product as well. Without high quality service, a high quality product is virtually useless.


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  • Building Management Systems vs. Off-The-Shelf: Size Matters

    Stemming from an excellent article from pharmamanufacturing.com, the divide between the “Sledgehammer or Walnut” approach (for monitoring and automation) is highly applicable to Temperature@lert’s overall philosophy and goal. The above graphics show the divide between a 'turnkey solution' for all automation and monitoring, versus an off-the-shelf product that stands as a specialized monitoring solution.

    For large scale applications, an all-inclusive Building Management System (BMS) is a highly desireable solution. Still, the first concern with these larger systems is the overall control, as incremental changes, auditing, and management is more difficult on the larger scale. If you have highly specific temperature controls or monitors, the ‘hand’ of a BMS may have difficulty administering smaller changes or performing audits. Such incremental changes can include daily alarms and reports. To quote the article, utilizing “catch-all” BMS systems (wherein incremental changes and modifications are necessary) is like “using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut”. Though the systems do provide comprehensive service, the installation and/or application may not be useful for all businesses. The second concern is the cost issue, particularly if a BMS system is not already in place. You may find that outfitting your buildings with a BMS system is a costly solution, and deployment is typically a longer process than an off-the-shelf solution.

    Temperature@lert takes pride in being an off-the-shelf monitoring system, and we’re happy to highlight ourselves as an “easy, compliant, and supported solution”, quoting from the article’s general statement. We may have our limitations, and we understand that the need for a larger, complete BMS system may be necessary for large scale businesses. On the other hand, to quote from the article, “adding users and locations is relatively straightforward (with off-the-shelf systems). Very true, and this represents a primary benefit of Sensor Cloud, our all-in-one cloud suite. With Sensor Cloud, adding users and locations is extremely simple, and you have the ability to monitor all of your devices in one place (internet connection provided). When compared with a BMS, our Sensor Cloud is a “closer look” at your sensors and devices and provides superior incremental flexibility. If you’re facing a potential audit of your temperature devices, you’ll have instant access to the raw data, and will have no need to comb through a BMS to pinpoint the information.

    As another follow to the article, our technical support represents another benefit of our products. For a BMS, you may be interacting with Honeywell or other large corporations. You may not get the help you need, when you need it. At Temperature@lert, we provide a more personalized support service.  We like to maintain familiarity with your specific needs and concerns, and we are committed to helping you keep compliance for your industry. We work as a team, and no problem is too small to fix.

    We've also launched a services arm to provide nationwide installation, custom software and sensors, private labeling and compliance for the benfit of customers that have specific requests or considerations. For more information on Temperature@lert’s off-the-shelf monitoring products, also visit our products page.  Also, check out our Free E-Book onTemperature Monitoring for tips, suggestions, and concerns for your specific industry.

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  • Temperature@lert Surpasses Over $1 Billion In Assets Protected

    Temperature@lert, a leading provider of low-cost, high-performance temperature monitoring products, is now protecting over $1 Billion of customer assets. Temperature@lert's mission is to provide companies and individuals with remote monitoring and alerting of temperature and other environmental conditions to alleviate customer worries about system malfunctions or product damage due to changes in temperature or other environmental conditions. 

    Temperature@lert was founded and funded in 2005 by CEO Harry Schechter in Washington D.C. with the USB Edition as their first temperature-monitoring device developed. Currently Temperature@lert’s central office is located in Boston, Mass. and their current product and service offerings include: USB Edition, WiFi Edition, Cellular Edition, Solar Cellular Edition and Sensor Cloud. Several of their products and services have won awards ranging from the MITX Innovation Awards to the American Business Awards’ Gold Stevie.

    Temperature@lert’s award-winning devices have aided users in major industries spanning from Information Technology (IT) to Biopharmaceuticals and Medical to Commercial Refrigeration.  Clients include Abbott Laboratories, Microsoft, Apple, Heil Environmental, Merck Corporation, University of Connecticut, Vanderbilt University and University of Pennsylvania, to name a few.

    “By giving 110% personally and having established a talented team willing to do the same, Temperature@lert has successfully grown in both research & development and users over the past eight years,” says CEO & President, Harry Schechter. “We now protect over $1 Billion of customer assets with over 40,000 devices in 50 countries with the world’s easiest to use solution. Temperature@lert’s mission to monitor environmental conditions and prevent problems related to such conditions is truly being realized and fulfilled. We strive to keep innovating and alleviating environmental conditions related disasters globally.”

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  • MITX Blog Feature: Warming Up Users


    Directly from the MITX Blog: http://blog.mitx.org/Blog/bid/90274/Temperature-lert-Warming-Up-Your-Users


    This post is part of the September blog series. With FutureM coming in October (do you have your pass yet?!), we're thinking a lot about marketers and consumers, and this series reflects that. We asked our writers to answer this question: "What is it going to take for marketers to catch up to consumers?" We'll be sharing several posts each week of the month. Stay tuned for diverse viewpoints and creative answers to this question. This post is by Diane Deng, Advertising Acrobat (Online Marketing Coordinator). Born and raised a Bostonian, Diane graduated with a BS from Boston University in Communications with a specialty in Advertising. Aerodynamic Diane spends her spare time flying in the air through her practice of aerial yoga while pursuing her Masters in Visual Arts at Harvard. Not only is she a flying machine but a marketing machine as well. She recently launched her first national cross-promotional marketing campaign. When Diane is not gliding on yoga swings, she swiftly manages Temperature@lert's new media accounts while building client and affiliate relationships. For this airborne gal, she likes her temperature like she likes her aerial yoga, a warm 78 degrees.

    Temperature@lert has tons of users (30,000 devices worldwide), but converting them from user to consumer varies across all verticals. Now, it seems more important than ever to know your user in order for them to become your consumer. There’s no simple wax-on, wax-off technique nowadays and it’s definitely time to consider how to warm-up your users.

    First let’s define user and consumer in the easiest manner:

    User: Purchased and uses product or service.
    Consumer: Purchased and consumes product or service.

    The definitions most certainly seem the same; however, there is a major difference. Users just use your product or service but have not become loyal to your brand. Therefore, a consumer is someone who not only uses your products and services, but also actually consumes your brand. What is this consumption of brand? Well that’s brand loyalty. But getting brand loyalty with all the noise from media bombardments have made it slightly more difficult. No longer can you focus on just traditional marketing or just new media; you need both and you need them tailored to each vertical.

    In order to warm up your users, you need to get to know them first. Human nature dictates that most people desire to be noticed, no matter how big or small their order is. At Temperature@lert we treat all our users equally, because it wouldn’t be fair for someone to cut in line. However we always make sure to take care of all our users in a timely manner whether it’s e-mail correspondences or answering tech support tickets. We even check our work e-mails at night and on the weekends, that’s just our Temperature@lert team motto.

    When dealing with users in different verticals, you need to know what they want, what they need, and how to provide solutions quickly and effectively. In order to do this you just need to pay attention. Notice if there are trends going on with new medical policies in your bio-pharmaceutical vertical. Notice if there’s a more recent release of server software in your IT/Data Center vertical. Notice if there’s been a recent spike in non-proper food transportation monitoring in your commercial refrigeration vertical. By noticing such details, your users will appreciate the fact that you’re making the effort to assist them.  

    Knowing what they want and need is one thing; knowing how to reach them is part two. Certain verticals or users tend to only check their e-mail on Wednesday afternoons around 3 p.m., others prefer Monday evenings around 5 p.m., while others might like Tuesday mornings at 11a.m. Look at the analytics and make a plan, do some A/B testing and find out what works in each vertical then maximize it to your advantage. After all, you don’t know if something works till you try it. Never forget that there are users who still prefer the traditional methods of advertising, give them a call or send them a mailer. Knowing how they want to receive the information makes all the difference.

    Marketers don’t need to catch up to consumers; they need to convert users to consumers. Reach out and show them you care and you’ll soon be surprising your users by having solutions for them before they even need to request it. That’s how you create consumers with true brand loyalty. Temperature@lert firmly believes in averting disasters before they can happen, so turn your user into a consumer by showing your loyalty to them and they’ll warm up to you.



     

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  • Temperature@lert's Best Technical Support Ever

    How do you provide the best technical support ever? Read on and find out how we provide the best technical support ever for our USB and wireless temperature monitoring products without outsourcing a single inquiry.



     

    You’ve heard the old saying “sales is everybody’s job”? At Temperature@lert, technical support is everybody’s job. Considering we’re staffed primarily by engineers who design and build our products, when you contact Temperature@lert technical support for help with your USB or wireless temperature monitor, you’re connected to a talented Temperature@lert team member who can resolve your issue immediately.



     

    Why do we do this? First, if there is a bug or other software issue when the engineers see enough inquiries related to it they’re more apt to go fix it rather than deal with the same inquiry again and again. Second, we’ve done 80% of the support work before you’ve even received your Temperature@lert product by making our USB and WiFi temperature monitors very easy to use. That single fact cuts our technical support inquires to a trickle. Now that we’re down to a trickle, it doesn’t make sense for us to hire, train and dedicate a full time staff for technical support. Nor can we justify referring you to an overseas call center, that actually ends up causing more problems than it solves.



     

    When you need technical support from Temperature@lert, just go to http://www.temperaturealert.com/support to read about common issues or contact us. We’ll get right back to you. If you'd like, we can even perform a remote control screen share and troubleshoot your product in real-time over the Internet. That’s how you deliver the best technical support ever!

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  • Almost At The Finish Line

    As Christmas comes and goes, so too does most of the nasty weather that hits the Northeast. While the holiday season is still in full swing over here at Temperature@lert, I thought I would do a post about resolutions and the new year. New Year's Eve is approaching quickly and now is the time to get in those last minute resolutions. Here is a list of 3 Temperature@lert resolutions for good ol' 2010.

    1) Spread the Temperature Cheer!
    We here believe that temperature monitoring should be fun!  We understand that monitoring temperature can be troublesome, even worrisome.  All the advice we can offer (minus the help of our great, immediate technical support) is that you should let the device do it's job so you can sleep better at night. 

    2) 2010 Is The Year Of Our Customer!
    2009 was a great year for us at T@ thanks to all of our wonderful and great customers. To show you our appreciation, we promise to continue serving you and protecting your equipment like we always have.  And as always, please feel free to drop us a line if you would like to see any other additional features in our upcoming software launches!  We already have a rather large customer feature request list, but it is always good to see more information pour through our channels.

    3) New releases, upgrades, and oh my!
    2010 is definitely going to be special for us and for our customers.  We have a very detailed plan on releasing new products, upgrading old products, and bringing the best (and affordable) solutions to our customers. Please check in often to make sure you have the latest and greatest T@ has to offer.

    While these 3 resolutions seem light and jolly, we plan on implementing them with all our might and effort.

    What are your resolutions for the upcoming year?

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  • Temperature@lert Enters Its Fifth Year!

    We're excited to be entering our fifth year of being in business! In that time, we have:

    • Saved tens of millions of dollars of IT equipment from melt down
    • Honed the reliability of our flagship product, Temperature@lert USB Edition (without ever issuing a price increase I might add)
    • Introduced two new ways to easily monitor temperature with our wireless products
    • Been certified by Dell / SPEC POWER as the ONLY compliant temperature monitoring device with 64-bit drivers
    • Received less than 20 product returns (yes, less than returns 20 in 5 years and tens-of-thousands sold!)
    • Acted as "software curators" by not allowing the software to bloat with unnecessary features
    • Managed to turn a profit without outside funding
    • Responded to most support requests within MINUTES
    • Adopted environmentally friendlier business and manufacturing practices

    But, most importantly, we couldn't have done it without you, our customers. Thank you for your support in making Temperature@lert the easiest to use, most reliable and cost effective solution for temperature monitoring/alerting.

    So, keep the lines of communication open, let us know what else we can do to improve Temperature@lert, and, of course, please tell your friends and colleagues. Here's to many more years!

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