Cold Chain Logistics Delivers for the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare, Packaging, Supply Chain, Warehousing & Distribution Management
March 27, 2015

Along the continuum of healthcare logistics, a few degrees can mean the difference between a shipment’s life and expiration.

For many medical devices, select pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, bioscience materials, drug stores and pharmacy products, even clinical trials, temperature fluctuations of as little as a few degrees can damage or destroy product in route. Ideal temperatures for storage or transport generally are between 35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, even room-temperature in the 60s or 70s for less sensitive products that nonetheless require a climate-controlled setting. Conditions too warm or too cold spoil products, resulting in unexpected loss and costs borne from waste, delays and shipper and customer dissatisfaction.

Cold chain logistics help ensure that temperature-sensitive healthcare products remain at the ideal setting throughout their journey, protecting product or ensuring shelf-life.

Cold chain logistics has global implications. For
products whose timely aCold Chain Logisticsnd suitable arrival is critical to their eventual patient use or market deployment, like vaccines, medications or delivery devices with drugs pre-loaded on board, such loss could wreak havoc on healthcare in localized or regional markets. On a broader scale, breakdowns in cold chain logistics can have significant health ramifications, especially for medications or devices on their way to combat illness outbreaks. The same is true for drugs or devices that are part of clinical trials, especially on a global scale.

To ensure ideal temperatures during transit, shippers across the spectrum should enlist cold chain partners with the equipment, facilities and vendor relationships that can ensure appropriate temperatures are maintained from the factory to the road to storage or warehouse facilities all along the route.

In their pursuit of climate-controlled transport, many cold chain providers rely on a network of solutions to ensure safe, stable delivery. For example, 3PL providers versed in the healthcare cold chain logistics can provide suitable solutions, including thermal or insulated packaging; refrigerated trucks or reefer cars; and temperature controlled warehouses or other storage facilities. Insulated or thermal protection of goods requiring room-temperature settings can help ensure stable temperatures throughout the shipment cycle, especially through warm markets or seasons.

Additionally, IT networks and monitoring technology can send real-time data reporting on the status of product in shipment. Using sensors that feed data to the cloud, temperature is continuously monitored, along with the shipment’s location and status, thus ensuring both timely delivery and shipment constancy along the path from manufacturer or warehouse to the destination.

Technology also is critical for contingency planning. Proactive monitoring of product in a vehicle or warehouse can indicate when parcels might be in distress from temperature shifts. The applications alert shippers or carriers about the need for intervention and contingency planning to either rescue the parcel in peril or expedite shipment of replacement product or materials.

When a few degrees matter, cold chain or cool chain logistics can protect the health of temperature-sensitive materials anywhere along the continuum of the supply chain. For healthcare manufacturers, that can be just the prescription for a healthier bottom line.

Written by Keli Parker, Global Director of Product Development and Strategy for Ryder System Inc. With 25 years of experience in the supply chain arena, Keli serves customers in the healthcare, electronics, technology and appliance manufacturing industries.

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