Every time I walk through a supermarket I take a look at the refrigeration and freezer cases. I want to see how well they are holding the temperature they should be holding, figuring that I and hundreds of others will eventually be eating food from those cases.

But from time to time, I realize that aspect of refrigeration is but a small part of how important it is to keep cold things cold.

I’ve toured large warehouses running on ammonia refrigeration. And I once toured a Winter Olympics venue in Calgary where the bobsled run held temperature thanks to ammonia refrigeration.

And I’m aware of how important smaller scale refrigeration is as with everything from under the counter ice machines in bars to refrigerators holding precise temperature for medical supplies at nursing homes and hospitals.

Transport refrigeration also comes to mind with refrigerated trucks hauling products over long distances.

In fact, that awareness of the medical and transport aspects of refrigeration drew my attention to an article in a local general circulation newspaper serving the area where I live.

“Emery Air has entered the high stakes world of pharmaceutical shipping, where millions of dollars ride on keeping drugs at constant low temperatures,” was the teaser lead on the front page of the Oct. 27, 2011 Rockford Register-Star.

The teaser went on to note that the Emery operation at the local airport had been named a service center for CSafe, which makes refrigerated shipping carts “leased to companies that fly medicines around the world.”

The item went on to say, “When leases end on the 1,425-pound crates that fit into the belly of air cargo planes, they come to Rockford where they are refurbished and sent on to the next customer. Vaccines, cancer drugs, blood and biological material for medicines are among materials shipped in the containers. And they aren’t cheap. Emery must guarantee its workmanship with $100 million in liability insurance to protect itself should the drugs shipped in a CSafe unit it maintains be ruined because of temperature fluctuations.”

Then in the body of the main story came this:

“Slight temperature changes can render pricey drugs and vaccines worthless, potentially leaving vendors like Emery on the hook for a fortune. ‘When you’ve got prescriptions that are $100 a pill, it doesn’t take a whole lot of space to hold millions of dollars,’ said Larry Fisher, Emery’s director of line services.

I admit that many times my concern over a faulty refrigeration system is melting ice cream or no ice for a drink.

But as noted in the story, a less than perfectly operating mechanical system can make obsolete vaccines, cancer drugs, blood and biological materials. And consider the cost involved in such loss not to mention what happens if those products do not reach their destinations on time.

I talked briefly by telephone with Larry Fisher, the Emery line services director. He said his company checks containers with a diagnostic tool and should something not be up to snuff, the container is sent back to the OEM manufacturer for service. So while servicing is not done locally, the checking of the item is.

I never take for granted refrigeration service folks. But I often get bogged down these days in writing about governmental regulations or mandates that affect refrigerants and refrigeration systems. Or I’m preparing a case study on a specific refrigeration project that usually involves some new technology. Or I sit in seminars or walk trade show floors learning about the newest developments in the industry.

What I forgot is the day-to-day work that refrigeration contractors and service technicians do to make sure everything from ice cubes to foods to medical supplies are kept up to the highest standards.

In this season of thanks and giving, about all I can do as Refrigeration Editor is give a sincere thank you to all of you who do what you do so well.

Publication date: 12/05/2011