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What is a data logger and why is it so important for the security of your cargo?


The Data Logger has become one of the essential tools to monitor the events and contingencies that take place during a specific distribution cycle.

While different types exist (temperature and humidity data loggerpressure data loggeraccelerometer data logger, etc.), all of them have the same ultimate purpose: to provide companies with data regarding the types of threats that their loads will need to face in order to subsequently make well-founded decisions on the matter. 

What is a Data Logger used for?

Before defining what a Data Logger is, it would be better to know why it is important to include it as an additional process of the packaging development department, regardless of it being staffed by engineers or designers.

It is common for companies to know their products inside and out, but to be unaware of the hazards that they face once they enter the distribution cycle. 

And the fact of the matter is that a product’s packaging faces many challenges each time that it is transported, putting its resistance and its main goal to the test: to protect the product within so that the customer receives it in prime condition.

According to Packaging Digest, up to 11% of goods have some kind of damage when reaching the distribution center.

In addition to its protective purpose mentioned above, the packaging also facilitates handling and storage, and makes it possible to identify the load.

Therefore, for companies to be able to develop an optimized packaging that meets its purpose and endures the distribution cycle, it is essential that they know precisely the threats that the packaging will face.

And… how can we accurately know the hazards that are faced by the load? To answer this question, there are two main methods to determine the challenges and contingencies that a product + packaging system will need to face:

  • Some engineers use the observation method: they monitor a package during the distribution cycle and observe what happens to it. However, this involves a significant time investment that also carries high economic costs. Furthermore, the collected information would only be valid for the specific trip, since the behavior of the handling operators or drivers may change due to the presence of the observers. In light of this, this method is usually valid as an initial observation, but will need to be cross-checked with supporting data obtained from other sources.
  • Alternatively, there is the research and bibliographic documentation option. In this case, engineers observe tests performed by other organizations and later use any available data. The problem with this method is that the data may be obsolete, or that it may be difficult to determine which sampling parameters have been used. Likewise, the conclusions depend on the perspective of the author of the study, and it may so happen that they are not valid for the distribution environment being researched by the engineer. When pitted against the two scenarios mentioned above, the reliability of the data yielded by a Data Logger stands out. This turns this tool into the best substitute for observation in the transportation environment, monitoring the events surrounding the package or vehicle during the distribution cycle.


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What is a Data Logger?

Data Logger or Data Recorder is a device that records the events that take place in transit and might affect the load that is being transported (package + product). Furthermore, this tool records those events but does not interfere with them or influence them. 

This way, if the parameters are measured for one same route on several occasions using the same device and the same protocols, it is possible to obtain statistically valid data to describe a specific distribution environment. 

The direct measurement of these events by using a Data Logger is the best method to collect information for a specific distribution channel. 

This will require calibrating the Data Logger in the lab to test its precision.

data recorder


Types of Data Logger

There are many types of Data Loggers based on their purpose and size. However, we could mostly break them down into two major groups: data collectors that measure temperature and humidity, and data collectors that measure impacts and vibrations.

Temperature and humidity Data Logger

These are used to measure the relative humidity and temperature that cargo is exposed to during the distribution cycle. 

Measuring the temperature and humidity can be key in the transportation of food or pharmaceuticals so that the company is aware of the conditions that the protective packaging will need to be able to withstand. 

There are tools of different sizes within this group.

  • The smaller ones are fully autonomous devices that include sensors, analogical and digital circuits, batteries and means of storing and reading information. They measure static or slow-changing parameters, such as temperature and humidity, in regular time intervals, using little energy and being easy to use.
  • On the other hand, a larger temperature and humidity Data Logger has multi-channel capabilities (it can also measure the voltage and digital and current signals) but requires external sensors to be connected to the unit. 

Impact and vibration Data Logger

Data loggers of the second type focus on measuring impacts and vibrations (these also include the pressure Data Logger and the accelerometer Data Logger). In turn, they can be divided into two categories: numerical monitors and full-waveform recorders.

  • On one hand, the numerical monitors can be purchased at a lower economic cost, have a smaller size and low power consumption. However, they also have less memory capacity and are not generally capable of fully and thoroughly characterizing a transport environment. Their purpose is to extract numerical data from the measurements, with the most common being accelerations (including date and time), information on the time during which the event has exceeded the limits, speed change estimations and number of events in an interval.
  • On the other hand, full-waveform data loggers can measure and store more complex data regarding the impacts and vibrations that take place during transportation. Moreover, they can function as a temperature and humidity Data Logger. These tools allow for the analysis of data related to the duration and frequency of events, in addition to compiling statistics based on this information.

All of this is performed by means of a software program on a PC, making them easy to install and facilitating the retrieval of the data and its analysis, as well as the generation of reports. 

For all of these reasons, full-waveform data loggers are a more powerful and sophisticated tool to characterize a transportation environment. 

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Benefits and uses of a full-waveform Data Logger

The main benefit of using a Data Logger is that it enables companies to make informed decisions related to packaging design, transportation and the laboratory testing protocols that are necessary to protect the goods.

Full-waveform data loggers can help companies determine the dynamic environment that exists in transport vehicles:

  • This tool monitors and records all information related to vibrations or impacts that affect the product or packaging system. Thanks to this, it is possible to simulate these events at a later time in a laboratory setting using a vibration + pitch & roll system or an impact tester, among others. In order to obtain reliable results in this case, it is necessary to place the Data Logger on the vehicle rather than the pallet.
  • Full-waveform data loggers can also be used to statistically determine the drop heights that load units might be subject to during transportation. The collected data can, in turn, be used to design a laboratory test that mimics those conditions. In this case, it will be necessary to place the Data Logger inside a package, so that it is handled as usual and monitors real distribution cycle conditions.
  • Another application of full-waveform data loggers is to use the information to verify the effectiveness of a specific packaging design, measuring the impacts and vibrations that the package can transfer to the product. 

In order to do this, a block of wood that has the same size, shape and weight of the product to be transported is paired with a Data Logger. Subsequently, the block is protected ensuring that exactly the same protective packaging as the one designed for the product is used.

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