Four ways to ensure you are not left out in the cold when the cold chain breaks
At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world saw a vaccine frenzy with every country trying to get their hands on the precious doses. But governments quickly realized that the storage of vaccines at their optimum low temperatures during transit was equally crucial beyond gaining access to vaccines.
At the beginning of the vaccine rollout, the first Covid-19 vaccine shipment to Ketchikan in Alaska spoiled during the journey due to the shipment being too warm. For many pharmaceutical products, even minor temperature variations could drastically reduce their efficacy. However, keeping these temperature-sensitive products cool is no easy feat. Each year, the industry loses about US$35 billion (€33 billion) in products because of cold chain breakages.
But beyond monetary expenses, the drastic consequences of cold chain failures can also lead to other disastrous consequences like global food security disruption. In our globalized world, cold chains – temperature-controlled supply chains that keep products at their optimum storage temperature to ensure freshness – are essential. Hence, here are four ways your company can best mitigate cold chain breakage risks:
1. Real-time temperature monitoring with Internet of Things (IoT)
Temperature-sensitive products, especially perishables like food and pharmaceuticals, must be kept at precise temperatures throughout the supply chain. Fluctuations in temperature can cause these products to spoil. In mitigating cold chain breakage, time is key to ensure that products are returned to their optimum temperature as quickly as possible.
Immediate response to such scenarios is made possible by real-time temperature monitoring with IoT. One company that has successfully leveraged this technology is Boehringer Ingelheim, a German pharmaceutical company, which uses IoT to monitor temperature levels in its vaccine cold chain. Instead of workers performing weekly manual checks on each storage box, IoT has helped Boehringer Ingelheim reduce manpower and save on labor costs while having peace of mind.
2. Adhering to industry best practices
Observing stringent standards may be troublesome and tedious, but doing so safeguards your company from losses if anything goes wrong in the cold chain. With so much at stake, assets and processes that allow for safely transporting temperature-sensitive goods must be running at the highest standard possible.
Popular best practices include clear labeling and marking of boxes as well as using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to trace and track products. These practices help ensure nothing gets lost along the cold chain, and that everything is handled with proper care. Daily maintenance checks and monthly equipment calibration are also essential in ensuring a swift response to cold chain breakages.
3. Invest in innovative technology
Innovations can now better help mitigate risks. Investing in cold chain solutions can keep your company one step ahead of breakages. One such example is the ifoodbag. Created by its eponymous Swedish startup, the ifoodbag is an insulated package that outperforms conventional paper or aluminum packaging. It maintains a stable temperature within the bag for up to 24 hours while keeping condensation out.
Companies like Woolcool and Puffin Packaging also produce unconventional insulated packaging with wool. The fibers derived from wool have outperformed traditional insulating materials, and are also far more sustainable as they are biodegradable.
In the occurrence of a cold chain breakage, those extra hours of insulation could be a game-changer in keeping products fresh until the breakage is resolved.
4. Ongoing training and education
Although machines do most of the heavy lifting in the cold chain, human workers are responsible for how they run. Your company can leverage your most powerful asset – your employees – to mitigate cold chain breakage risks.
Inculcating a strong culture of initiative and responsibility in workers can help keep cold chain management at its optimum. Adequate training ought to be provided for personnel throughout the cold chain – from drivers to warehouse workers and machinery operators – to know what is at stake and what to do when things go wrong.
It is estimated that nearly a third of supply chain management jobs in Singapore could become outdated in two years because of the industry’s digitization. Upskilling programs will thus, be key in keeping workers abreast with digital advancements. Equipping workers with skill sets such as data analytics and automation will empower them to deal with cold chain emergencies in a digitized future.
Mitigating cold chain breakage risks may take more time and resources, but taking extra precautions is worth the effort. By going the extra mile to protect their cold chain, companies can ensure the integrity of their cold chain, safeguard their clients, and protect their bottom line.