SOME milk haulers may think that the use of technology in satisfying the demands for product security complicates their operations and adds unnecessary expense, but Chris Thompson of the University of Kentucky said application is likely to improve efficiency.
He and Darrell Bigalke of Quality Management Inc (QMI) discussed the issue during the International Milk Haulers annual convention in Branson, Missouri.
Thompson and his colleagues at the university are working with federal grant monies to study programs for securing milk transportation that can ultimately help a carrier root out mismanagement and thus improve the bottom line.
Bigalke discussed a new QMI prototype syringe sampling device installed in a tank trailer line that can be used to test milk for security and quality standards. For the time being, Food and Drug Administration-approved sampling procedures for tank trailers require a dip sample from the tank's opening at the domelid. The multi-port device being considered contains single-track needle channels to preserve sanitation. The sampling device can be installed in an elbow pipe with sampling opening on the tank trailer, which allows sampling before milk stratification, keeps drivers off the top of the trailer, and generally saves time and is thus more efficient.
At the University of Kentucky, the three-year study that is underway eventually will include evaluation of wireless electronic systems that can be adapted for use by transporters.
Thompson pointed out that many carriers in other areas of the tank truck industry are employing technology to track trucks and enhance security, but milk transporters have been slow to come on board.
Electronic equipment can evaluate route efficiency and can be used to expedite billing. “These are bonus features for the transporters,” Thompson said.
The study will look at global positioning satellites (GPS) to track vehicles and driver identification programs that interact with carrier data bases, as well as with systems at the dairy farm. For example, when a driver arrives at the farm to load product, his identity can be verified both by the system on the truck as well as the system at the dairy barn.
Other information could be entered into the database, including product weight and temperature. At end of the route, the system would have pertinent data about the transportation, including every time the driver's door is opened on the truck with information about why it was opened.
Dairy farm specific information will be preloaded into the system and then printed on a ticket after loading milk at each location.
Locking or sealing
Security starts with locking or sealing the tank trailer after unloading or cleaning, and ends when the milk is unloaded. The driver (or authorized product sampler) can activate the opening of a specific lock.
“The processor will know that this truck was secured from the time it left the wash rack until it arrived at the milk plant with the product,” Thompson said.
More advanced systems have the capability to track an individual cow and her production, information that could be streamed into the transporter's data system and to the processor.
The University of Kentucky study will include input from different segments of the dairy industry.
“We think we have a good test for the system that will keep us on the straight and narrow so we don't go off on some tangent that isn't relevant to the dairy industry,” Thompson said.
“We don't want it to be complicated,” Thompson said. “If it's not cost effective, it won't be used. Our goal is for the systems to operate automatically and require minimal or no attention by the driver.”
Thompson said the project is seeking input from milk transporters and urges anyone with questions or interest in the project to either e-mail him at [email protected] or visit the University of Kentucky Web site at rs.uky.edu.