Cold Chain Control Blog

It's time for a serious talk with our cold chain shipments

Posted by edejong
edejong
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on Tuesday, 15 May 2012
in Real-time cold chain management

Yesterday I heard a radio commercial in which a person is calling a personal friend: "Hey how are you? I am really worried as I haven't heard from you for 12 seconds! No SMS, no tweets, no WhatsApp. Is everything OK?”. This commercial illustrates how the rise of the Internet and mobile  communication have profoundly changed personal communication. In today’s connected world we can be assured we receive any important information from our family, friends or colleagues almost immediately.

In the near feature the technologies that have changed personal communication will have a similar impact on the way we communicate with physical objects. I believe that this “Internet of Things” will create tremendous value for cold chain management practices.

In the pharmaceutical industry the use of digital data loggers has become a standard component in managing high-value shipments. These devices record exactly when something is going wrong in the transportation process, but keep this information silent until the product arrives at its destination. At that moment it’s already too late to prevent any problems. This approach is widely accepted, but I believe that in our connected world we should no longer accept this way of working. Cold chain management simply deserves better.  

It’s time that our valuable cold chain shipments start talking with us in real-time. Shipments should keep us informed about their condition and location, and immediately warn us when something is about to go wrong.  This can help to address the most critical challenges faced by pharmaceutical manufacturers. In-transit visibility and pro-active intervention can immediately improve process quality and process efficiency. In a next phase I belive this may result in further supply chain optimization, with lower inventory levels, shorter lead time and more flexible supply chains.

Some early adopters are showing that the business value of his approach is real. For example, Panalpina Air & Ocean, the internal service providers within global freight forwarder Panalpina, has been using wireless sensors to monitor pharmaceutical shipments since 2010. This implementation has been driven by a vision for pro-active intervention and management by exception principles. The initial implementation has already resulted in major improvements in process quality and customer service.

While the potential business value is significant, I also see some factors that slow down the adoption of the required technologies. We we elaborate these opportunities and challenges in some future blog posts.

 

 

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