In some ways, computers are a lot like the people who use them. Take our ability to withstand extreme temperatures, for instance. A frigid day that arrives unannounced in the middle of a heat wave feels much colder, while we can generally get ourselves used to the cold when days get slowly and incrementally chillier. The average person’s body requires time to acclimate.
However, slow acclimatization is a luxury that no cold storage facility can afford, especially Dean Foods, a global leader in branded dairy foods and beverages. As the dairy industry leader in the United States, Dean Foods Company sells milk and a full range of related products under more than 50 well-known local and regional brands, and a wide array of private labels. Dean’s worldwide headquarters, located in Dallas, Texas, supports two operating divisions: Fresh Dairy Direct, the largest processor and distributor of milk and other dairy products in the country; and WhiteWave-Morningstar, maker of an extensive line of nationally branded products such as Horizon Organic dairy products, Silk® soymilk and International Delight® coffee creamers.
Operators in Dean’s Birmingham, Alabama, and McKinney, Texas facilities routinely race from a -24°F freezer into a 70°F truck, and back again, as they move these high-demand fast-turn products along the supply chain. The mobile hand-held computers Dean’s employees use to accelerate product through this transition must withstand this rapid and dramatic change.
Dean originally used a competitive solution that added blankets and heated boots to enable freezer use. Those add-on heating mechanisms became hindrances in the warm outer areas, as the units quickly fell prey to condensation. The condensation would run down the unit and collect behind the keys, turning to ice when the operator returned to the freezer. According to Rich Welling, Dean Foods IT Director, “the iced keys would stick which led to constant repairs of devices with keys damaged or popped off completely.”