Got (vaccine shipment) data?

Sept. 27, 2021
How an early warning system can help secure pharma cold chains

The Suez Canal blockage incident — the latest “black swan” event in a year filled with them — has exposed weaknesses in the global supply chain. Suppliers with goods on the Ever Given certainly knew where their shipments were located — but did they know the condition of their products?

The event was a wake-up call to suppliers worldwide stressing the vital need for data-rich, real-time supply chain visibility.

This need is particularly evident in the global distribution effort of COVID-19 vaccines, due to unprecedented scale and urgency, as well as cold chain requirements.

With more moving parts and therefore, more scope of breakdowns, a cold chain is the most vulnerable kind of supply chain. It’s especially vulnerable in pharma, as stringent compliance requirements make the cold chain vital to avoiding exposure to risk. Things can go wrong despite the various risk management plans and techniques applied. For example, even a drop of half a degree in temperature could impact the efficacy or stability of COVID- 19 vaccines.

Thus, the best practice is to find a way to identify and mitigate these risks before facing the worst-case scenario. This is where a pharma cold chain monitoring system comes in.

Pharma cold chain monitoring technologies have progressed in leaps and bounds, evolving from manual data collection to data loggers with automated logging but manual extraction, to Bluetooth devices that sync with wireless networks.

While the latest pharma cold chain technologies have resolved the data availability problem to a point, they still leave some gaps. The biggest of these gaps is the lack of real-time, relevant data that provides actionability in the true sense — in short, an early warning system.

Filling the gaps

An active pharma cold chain early warning solution can provide companies with relevant and actionable data with real-time visibility, while traditional data loggers can only give information about the condition (usually just temperature). An early warning system provides the combination of live sensor data and preemptive actionability, which helps reduce preventable losses due to damaged goods, resulting in better supply chain performance, better market share, and ultimately a much better brand image.

Investing in active cold chain monitoring becomes critical when dealing with pharma goods. Pharma companies not only need to know something has gone wrong, but also need to develop contingency plans for those anomalies on-the-go, so quick decisions based on insights before something hits the bottom line are key.

A cloud-based, wireless monitoring solution, when well-executed with good global connectivity, will track the temperature of shipments in transit in real-time. This type of system gives usable signals that you can act upon, instead of scrounging through spreadsheets. The information automatically reaches the right person at the right time. This helps the person responsible respond to early warning signals and contain the damage as soon as it begins.

Active pharma cold chains can help businesses and governments not only by saving the cost and effort that goes into re-ordering contaminated pharma packages due to events such as temperature excursions, theft and delays, but also from the absolute agony of having indirectly put human life in danger.

In short, the “old school” pharma cold chain tracking techniques (e.g., data loggers that only give you limited post-event information) are like hunting for an Uber at 8:45 a.m. when your office is 30 minutes away. An early warning system is like your daily morning alarm that saves you from being late for work, and enables you to do what needs to be done, at the right time.


About the Author

Sanjay Sharma | CEO