When there’s no room for error: Connected Solutions and the pharma cold chain.

28th August 2019

Only with Connected Solutions, transport managers in the pharma cold chain can be confident they know what’s happening and where.

Most pharmaceutical products are highly sensitive to changes in temperature. That’s whyit’s no surprise that distributors are increasingly looking at Connected Solutions (telematics) to gain:

  • One single view of the condition of each load out on the road
  • Proactive insights to spot potential issues in advance and apply the fix
  • The ability to meet GDP (Good Distribution Practice) guidelines for tracking a load’s temperature at all times

There is a challenge however, as the temperature sensors fitted to fleets for this exact purpose can often be sourced from a number of third parties – and integrating them all into one coherent system is a tough ask.

The result? Well, let’s look at a real-world example – and pick up the story after one customer’s load had been jeopardized due to exceptionally cold winter weather.

A compromised batch

“I got the call on a Friday night,” remembers Henk Lammertse, General Manager at Thermo King Transportkoeling in Rotterdam (NL). “Our customer – a distributor of pharmaceuticals – had just shared its temperature data with the manufacturer and spotted a problem.”

Within two hours, Henk was on the scene and assessing the situation. However, the more he investigated, the more the scale of the ‘problem’ emerged:

“What we found was that instead of the required 15°C to 25°C that was set for the load, the temperature had never made it above the 0°C range, rendering the entire batch useless.”

From problem to solution

Having confirmed the problem and its effects, the next step was to identify the cause: “As crazy as it may sound, none of the temperature control units were actually running!” Henk explains. “For whatever reason, the drivers had simply forgotten to turn them on.”

Determined never to have it happen again, the distributor called for a meeting with the Thermo King dealer to discuss solutions.

“The biggest problem the business had was a lack of visibility. The third-party temperature tracking solution they had in place only showed the temperature, not the status of the temperature control unit – or even the temperature set-point.

From isolated to integrated

The stage was set for Henk and his team to introduce the Thermo King TracKing platform. “We proposed an integrated approach, with multiple sensors sending their data to a Thermo King BlueBox device which then transfers all data to the central TracKing platform.”

The benefits of such an approach were immediately obvious:

  • Climate visibility – fleet managers can now view key metrics such as temperature, reefer status and set-point for all deployed vehicles
  • Integrated insight – with all the information available for viewing from one central location
  • Exception management – when a possible issue is spotted, the driver can now be called instantly to address the issue

From reactive to proactive

As for lessons learned by the customer, the value of proactive issue resolution certainly tops the list. As Henk explains, “the telematics system now allows us to send out any nearby team whenever a problem is detected in their data. And that’s only real-time insights. There’s much you can learn by looking at the error codes in a unit’s historical data.”

Not that the lessons or indeed the value end there from a technology that’s expected to become the established standard in pharma distribution:

  • Telematics have helped extend the customer’s (and dealer’s) capabilities, thereby keeping them one step ahead of the competition
  • Connecting data on both individual vehicles and refrigeration units rapidly expands a Fleet Manager’s visibility, reach and ability to operate smart

Expand your reach with Connected Solutions

The above is just one example of how telematics are being used across the pharma cold chain to boost the responsiveness of transport companies to any potential problem – and help ensure every load arrives in pristine condition.

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