Best Practice Guidebook: Packaging Design and Qualification in Temperature Controlled Logistics

Cold Chain IQ

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A ruined shipment of temperature-controlled medicine can cost much more than lost revenue – it can cost lives.  Navigating routes to patients efficiently and cost effectively with temperature sensitive materials is a labor intensive task, and one which hinges on the investment in trustworthy equipment. Investment in packaging design and qualification is a critical part of the tool kit.

Active Containers: Best practice qualifications and considerations

Selection matrix considerations in evidencing long term to short term costs

Deploying a selection matrix can compare and analyze attributes which are critical to your firm’s projects to verify decision making – which is integral especially for leased solutions. Categorizations made through generating data internally can consider the following: 

Temperature accuracy: Active shippers have the highest temperature accuracy in comparison to hybrid and passive shippers. They also provide the best flexibility when exposed to a temperature profile that does not match the qualification profile. 

Size availability: When compared to passive shippers, active and hybrid shippers, due to their increased complexity and cost, have a narrower selection of payload sizes, which can cause complications in packaging efficiency. This demands added planning to ensure the availability of the container is well timed. 

Ease of use: Active and hybrid shippers are easy to set up, but may need maintenance in transit, depending on the length of the shipment.

Cost: The increased size, weight and complexity of active and hybrid shippers make them typically very costly. This cost translates through to extended freight payments.

Hazard: Active shippers may use lithium batteries. 

Eco-impact – Consider the footprint active solutions are likely to produce. Alongside being compliant and controlling costs, life  science companies are expected to reduce the environmental impact of their cold chain. 

Volumetric efficiency 

Both active and hybrid shipping systems quite often demand less distribution flexibility due to their reusability which requires a closed distribution loop. One cost reduction tactic to apply in planning phases is to evaluate the payload volumetric efficiency – leveraging innovative techniques and metric calculations to maximize container utilization. This involves the identification of where moves can be consolidated and packaging can be downsized. This will reduce the cost per unit based on packaging spend and also in freight savings as less space is occupied. 

Passive Containers: Best practice qualifications and considerations


Bulk passive shippers In regards to looking at reusing or recycling insulation materials to increase cost savings and sustainability, Beth Ruland, Associate Director of Global Packaging at Bristol Myers-Squibb, noted that it’s productive to examine the components and temperature control material being utilized as well as contemplating larger passive units for use which are reusable. Bulk passive units provide the benefits of no power source dependence and a wider choice in payload volume sizes. These strengths allow pharma firms to be more efficient with the packing of shipments and avoid incurring over-spend from ill-fitting containers.

Congruency in SKU management

SKU refrigerants which are compatible with a selection of passive solutions will reduce the need for the excessive management of SKUs at different levels – a resource drain that can translate into delays or potentially missed shipments. Although, beneficial, this SKU congruency is hard to achieve as most passive systems are designed as unique entities.

Ease of Use

As passive shippers require pre-conditioning and specific assembly processes – look for systems that are user friendly in terms of the packing process they require. Alternatively look to train and re-train your system handlers to aid success.


Passive shippers have a lower amount of components liable to fail during transit in comparison to active and hybrid systems. However, the awareness of potential failures with passive systems will assist with qualification. These potential failures include: 

The permeation of packaging material – This occurs due to a lack of compatibility with the phase change materials (PCM) used. This could escalate to the PCM physically eroding neighbouring packaging materials.

Leaking – PCMs are difficult to maintain and require more robust seal types in comparison to the water based refrigerants. 

Conditioning – Challenges and added costs can be encountered when the PCM being applied needs conditioning to the intended temperature range. 

Other topics addressed in this eGuide include: tailored testing, avoiding the pitfall of overspending, Considerations Specific to Temperature Profiles, Best Practice Considerations with various Insulation Materials. Download your complimentary copy today.