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Supply chain digitalisation: finding integrity and sustainability

Gwyn Slee, Global Head of Digital Transformation at Tower Cold Chain, discusses the role that technology is playing to sustain robust, reliable, and reusable pharmaceutical supply chain digitalisation.

The global distribution of temperature-sensitive Covid-19 vaccines brought unprecedented logistical challenges, reaffirming the need for security and traceability at every step of the pharmaceutical supply chain. The volatility of the market, combined with today’s increasingly connected, fast-paced world, means businesses are relying on their third-party cold storage partners to deploy end-to-end tracking processes and capabilities to ensure product integrity and maintain profits. Data is no longer a bonus feature, but a vital part of cold chain operations. Likewise, smart packaging which delivers end-to-end traceability is becoming a cornerstone of supply chain digitalisation.

Dataloggers, designed to monitor external and internal temperatures throughout each container’s journey, should be built into containers; indeed, this is a key, aspect in those provided by Tower. Advanced packaging features such as dataloggers, which are integrated into the external body of the container, inform customers of the solutions’ pre-conditioned temperature, prior to goods being placed inside, thus guaranteeing product integrity from the very beginning.

Using Bluetooth Low Energy Technology, each logger communicates wirelessly, sending accurate data to the cloud. Users can get a text or email notifications of temperature excursions, as well as automatic data downloads throughout the transit when it’s in range of an InTemp Gateway device. This data communication allows for accurate compliance checks and on-delivery sign-off, providing complete visibility and transparency to customers. 

Assurance of product integrity is paramount in cold chain, which is why reliability is a key foundation for logistics providers. Data downloaded from over 25,000 shipments in Tower containers demonstrate fewer than 0.1% of temperature excursions on average, a vital indicator in the maintenance of the cold chain. 

But, in a rapidly developing digital world, it is vital for temperature-control specialists to continue to leverage emerging technologies as a means of optimising processes to provide the highest quality and consistency to customers. All industries are currently dealing with what is being dubbed “The Amazon Effect” – a mindset where consumers have little tolerance for a lack of order tracking. 

To stay ahead of the curve, digital tools are needed to track orders in real-time; to provide updates on geographical location and shipment progress. The challenge however is finding a cellular GPS solution which is geared towards pharmaceutical shipments and is compatible with airline regulations whilst offering a sustainable battery life. As a business, we’re actively looking into this sphere, to deliver the newest and smartest solutions to our customers.   

AI is also emerging as a powerful technology to add value to the supply chain digitalisation process across multiple dynamics and data sources. We are currently evaluating the use of management systems based on AI to provide an integrated end-to-end approach, where huge volumes of data are collated into a singular sign-on platform. With accurate information at their fingertips, customers gain better visibility into their operations, with access to lead times, temperature monitoring, airway bills and global positioning, all from one centralised platform. 

The baseline requirement for pharmaceutical logistics is that products should arrive on time, undamaged and with no temperature excursions. Advanced technologies are there to enhance this process, so choosing the most appropriate cold chain solution, which is inherently resilient, as well as smart, can make all the difference.

Through the structural design of passive containers, all products that are shipped with Tower are transported without the need for in-transit manual intervention. 

Ultimately, the resilience is already there but technology is helping us to take that process to the next level to maintain robust, reliable, reusable supply chain digitalisation.

TAGS: Technology
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