Cold chain storage refers to the logistical and operational processes that create and maintain a temperature-controlled supply chain that transports products to distributors, retailers, and consumers. Cold chain storage is crucial for specific sectors that produce temperature-sensitive products, such as the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries. When it comes to these critical sectors of the economy, even slight deviations in temperature can produce dire consequences for consumers and businesses since expired food or healthcare products can result in public health crises.
For many pharmaceutical companies, cold chain storage is an absolute necessity. However, implementing cold chain storage for pharmaceuticals does come with its fair share of challenges. Pharmaceutical companies make a concerted effort to solve the problems of developing cold chain storage while minimizing costs.
It can be difficult for many outsiders to appreciate all of the pitfalls faced by companies eager to utilize systems and technologies that facilitate cold chain storage for pharmaceuticals. Let’s look at some of the most common problems pharmaceutical companies face when implementing these systems.
Logistics and Packaging
A central challenge of creating a temperature-controlled supply chain is mapping out a detailed plan for each storage facility and transportation phase for all products with varying requirements. However, this planning stage is critically important since a lack of planning can result in huge costs and even legal liability down the road when medical products become unstable or expire, putting consumers at risk.
As part of their logistics planning, management must carefully outline each step of the supply chain journey, exactly project what temperature each storage facility must be kept at, and implement temperature monitoring systems. Moreover, they must plan what sorts of cybersecurity systems they will implement to keep their cold chain technology secure. Managers must also create contingency plans that go into effect in the case of supply chain mishaps or errors.
Management must also plan how communication will occur between supply chain professionals, healthcare facilities, regulators, and tech systems. That includes planning how data will be formatted and reported to regulators to ensure compliance with local laws. It also entails programming automated notification systems that alert supply chain managers to any errors.
Supply chain managers must decide what tech stack, the combination of technologies, they will use to create a temperature monitoring system. They must plan what packaging and cooling materials they will use to house medical products. Based on these plans, managers can forecast their expected budget for creating and facilitating cold chain storage for pharmaceuticals.
Training Personnel and Allocating Human Capital
Aside from carefully planning how to set up a temperature-controlled supply chain, pharmaceutical companies must also invest in training their employees on how to interact with it. For example, companies handle many highly-sensitive medical products in specific ways to maintain efficacy, such as by keeping them at sufficiently low temperatures.
The Covid-19 vaccines have brought the importance of this to light since they are incredibly temperature-sensitive. It’s, therefore, no surprise that recent technological innovation in cold chain storage for pharmaceuticals has made the space a hot market for investors.
Covid-19 vaccines must be delivered using specially created containers using dry ice to keep them at extremely low temperatures. Healthcare workers must confirm their arrival using an interface on the container, which alerts the manufacturer that delivery was on time. Workers must then use specific equipment to remove the vaccines from the container and put them in an ultra-low temperature freezer or refrigeration system.
Handling sensitive medical products like vaccines can represent huge costs for pharmaceutical companies, so investing in proper training for the supply chain and healthcare professionals is critical. Pharmaceutical companies create training materials, manuals, and whitepapers for this purpose so that all workers know how to handle these expensive medical products.
Collecting Accurate Temperature Data
To ensure that they store all medical products at appropriate temperatures, pharmaceutical companies must regularly collect temperature data from storage facilities. In the past, companies used analog thermometers and healthcare workers to monitor temperatures, but there is a better way today.
Pharmaceutical companies can keep tabs on the temperatures of storage facilities in a more automated way by using data loggers. Data loggers are small electronic devices that collect environmental data at set time intervals, including temperature, humidity, and differential pressure. Data loggers are also one of the most important technologies used for environmental monitoring and protection.
Data loggers measure the temperature of storage facilities and record those temperatures using internal storage. The company can later extract that temperature data to submit to regulators. Regulations require many pharmaceutical companies to use data loggers for temperature monitoring to prevent data reporting errors and protect consumers.
Companies can configure some data loggers to export data over the internet to pharmaceutical companies, further simplifying the process. However, an internet connection means that companies must ensure those data loggers and the network they operate on maintain rigorous data security standards.
Managing Risk and Responding to Emergencies
Setting up a universal cold chain storage system represents a significant investment for pharmaceutical companies. Managing these risks is a considerable challenge, and even a slight mistake or oversight in the cold chain can mean massive costs and liability for pharmaceutical companies. Data loggers can be programmed to send automatic alerts to management when storage temperatures deviate from a specific range to alleviate some of these risks.
Companies must map out the different levels of risk they face from supply chain breakdowns. Accordingly, they can decide how much they should invest in preventing or creating contingencies for specific adverse outcomes. For example, pharmaceutical companies can use temperature mapping technology to prevent certain areas within a storage facility from being warmer or cooler than others, ensuring a uniform, stable temperature no matter where products are stored or transported within the facility.
At its core, risk and disaster management involves taking a big-picture look at how pharmaceutical companies can prevent the worst possible outcomes while minimizing expenses. Contemplating risk can be scary and unpopular, even within high-performing companies, but it is essential for future success.
It’s quite clear that cold chain storage for pharmaceuticals is a challenging but necessary pursuit. Failure to establish a well-monitored cold chain storage system could not only be an economic disaster for a company but also extremely harmful to public health. Pharmaceutical companies can eliminate much of their risk by using data loggers, temperature mapping, and other cold chain storage technologies.