Cold Chain Technology – Cold Chain Shipments – Part 3

Cold Chain IQ

Despite these critical benefits, the pharmaceutical industry sometimes seems reluctant to embrace cold chain technology innovations. In this final part of the series, Eelco de Jong takes Cold Chain IQ thorugh the factors he believes most limits innovation.

For more information please visit our Cold Chain technology resource centre

•Limited knowledge about technical capabilities. Wireless communication technologies are developing rapidly. This makes it challenging for end-users to keep up with all developments in technologies such as RFID, wireless sensor networking and GPS/GPRS sensors. This means that the technology industry has a responsibility for education and realistic communication.

•Insufficient quantification of the business case. New solutions create opportunities that go beyond the imagination of many organizations. It is up to the visionary companies to realize the initial benefits and create a competitive advantage. At the recent Cool Chain Europe conference in Basel I met with a supply chain manager from a pharmaceutical manufacturer that had a clear vision how real-time visibility could help to reduce costs in the clinical trial supply chain by reducing inventory levels and waste. These visionary companies will need to prove the business benefits, so that the rest of the industry can follow their example.

•Organizational consequences. In global supply chains many companies work together to deliver a shipment to a customer. This environment complicates the implementation of new technologies across the supply chain. Furthermore, the benefits cannot be achieved with technology only. Technology is only an enabler and achieving the business benefits requires organizational processes and changes. As we start to collect more real-time information, management by exception principles will become critical. Furthermore, it sometimes seems that the strict quality assurance and validation requirements at pharmaceutical manufacturers favor the acceptance of the ‘status quo’ and existing solutions, resulting in ‘innovation reluctance’.

•Technical constraints and limitations. Despite all the recent technical innovations, some limitations still remain for the use of certain technology products. For example, GPS/GPRS sensors can be used for road and ocean freight shipments, but at this moment these devices are still difficult to get approved for use on air transportation.

In the next few years we will work with our customers, technology partners and research institutes to address and remove the remaining obstacles for real-time cold chain monitoring. We have no doubt that in the future pharmaceutical shippers and logistics service providers will talk to their cold chain shipments in the same way they communicate with other people today. In the not too distant future this may result in a commercial where a cold chain control tower is contacting a shipment with the question ‘Is everything OK with you? Can you confirm that you are really stored in the cold room?" And the shipment will respond that everything is fine, as we have created a supply chain where excursions are something of the past.

For the previous parts of the series please visit our cold chain technology resource centre.