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New Tools and Models Designed to Optimise Costs and Protect the Environment

Predict, anticipate, for better selection. Reuse to protect and make savings.

Increasingly efficient but expensive passive packaging …

Over the past five years, high-performance passive isothermal packaging based on materials such as VIP (Vacuum Insulation Panel) or PCM (Phase Change Material) has been introduced on the market. They make it possible to maintain pharmaceutical products at negative temperatures, between +2°C and +8°C or between +15°C and +25°C for 5 days or more, depending on the outside temperature. These “PREMIUM +” products offer very high levels of performance that make it possible to limit or even eradicate temperature excursions. Their acquisition price is nevertheless high and this type of packaging remains reserved most of the time for products with high added value. Except when they are associated with a rental or reuse service, which makes them less expensive to use than “STANDARD” isothermal packagings, which are less efficient.

…that reusability makes affordable

The quality and lifespan of the new materials used in the manufacture of passive isothermal packaging make it possible to reuse this packaging many times. Precise rules defined upstream by the supplier’s quality department, thorough cleaning and control after each use is nevertheless necessary in order to validate the subsequent performance of the isothermal packaging. Reusing isothermal packaging also brings many environmental benefits by significantly reducing CO2 emissions related to the production and destruction of packaging. The end customer is relieved of the burden of waste management. This is highly appreciated and meets a real need, particularly for pharmacies and hospitals which are overwhelmed by packaging. However, some argue that returning isothermal packaging to its place of manufacture for reuse has a high environmental cost.

In a collaborative and virtuous model

It cannot be denied that returning isothermal packaging after use to a supplier’s service centre to monitor the cleaning and quality control circuit has a cost and an impact on CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, these costs are largely optimised if the supplier of isothermal packaging has built up a global network of service centres that allows the packaging to be re-positioned close to the final destination. All the more so if the supplier pools the returns from its various customers by consolidating the return packaging before re-positioning it.

Air transport is more prone to temperature excursions than sea or road transport

The multiplicity of operators, particularly in air transport, makes it difficult to identify the origins of temperature excursions and to set up processes to avoid them. Data logger technology has evolved considerably over the last 5 years and it is now possible to have real-time information on product temperature. Some technologies are allowed on board aircraft because they do not interfere with the aircraft control systems. These expensive solutions can help avoid temperature excursions before they happen, by means of an alert message relayed in real time to the responders. Positive feedback has already been presented by pharmaceutical laboratories. Currently, these solutions are not frequently used for operational and financial reasons. But access to these solutions should become more democratic and help the many operators move in the right direction. The detail of the information provided in real time by these data loggers (internal and external temperature) will enable the rapid identification of loopholes and transport contracts that are not respected. Decision support tools will progressively be at the heart of the reduction of temperature excursions.

Tools to qualify one’s suppliers and airlines

Decision support tools such as the Validaide platform allow pharmaceutical companies to have an overview of the performance of the different operators on each air route and thus to build a transport plan taking into account both risks and costs. The upcoming integration of these decision support tools such as weather forecasts will allow to refine the choices made.

Adapting one’s packaging according to lanes and seasons

Is it best to choose a single isothermal solution that works regardless of the destination, supplier or season, or refine your choice depending on the shipment? To optimise the cost of transporting medicines, refining the choice of isothermal packaging or its composition (PCM or water) for each shipment is the best solution. The range of isothermal packaging on the market makes it easy to do this. The suppliers of isothermal packaging have an important advisory role in helping the customer to choose the most suitable solution. Here again, decision support tools that simulate the internal temperature of the packaging according to the external conditions and the lanes selected will enable an informed choice to be made of the isothermal packaging best suited to the situation. The final goal is obviously to optimise costs. This dynamic (adapting the isothermal packaging) and predictive approach (simulating the temperature according to multiple criteria) only makes sense when the stability data of the transported pharmaceutical products are integrated.

Integrating stability data to reduce costs

Exploiting stability data and integrating them into a decision support tool is an effective lever to reduce logistics costs. Novonordisk understands this and has already made significant progress in this area, as explained at the 7th Pharma and Biosciences Conference in September 2019 in Paris. This pharmaceutical laboratory uses the data from shipments already made (temperatures from data loggers and data from their carriers) as well as weather forecasts to choose the appropriate isothermal packaging. The integration of stability data for their products in this tool enables them to optimise costs. The implementation of this approach has enabled Novonordisk to use active containers on a single lane from now on.

The ultimate goal is to create “An enhanced decision-making tool that will enable people at every warehouse (3PL) to pack and ship the optimal delivery based on a cognitive engine that takes into account weather, shipping mode, packaging material performance, etc.” dixit NovoNordisk Supply Chain Planning Team.

Other alternative solutions are emerging and being developed to help pharmaceutical companies in their choices. “The integration in the same tool of data on the stability of the products transported, packaging performance and lane validation enables the decision-making process and costs to be optimised by avoiding the use of packaging that is oversized in relation to requirements” explains Yann Martin, EMBALL’ISO. And he goes on saying, “This is not the only cost optimisation lever. Beyond the advice we give them to select the right packaging, we offer them all-inclusive reusable solutions that allow them to optimise their costs and their impact on the environment. ”

The environment is becoming a priority

As DHL states in its study “Rethinking packaging”, three priorities are identified for packaging in the broadest sense of the term in 2020. Priority 1: The use of sustainable materials. Priority 2: Reuse of packaging and Reverse Logistics. Priority 3: Intelligent packaging.

Will 2020 mark a turning point in cold chain logistics? What concrete actions can be implemented to integrate these environmental priorities?

Use lightweight packaging to limit CO2 emissions, ie. give preference to passive solutions over active solutions. Use reusable packaging to limit CO2 emissions linked to the production and destruction of packaging. Optimise the filling of packaging. Favour reusable solutions that do not require repositioning by plane but rather by boat or to local service centres. Favour isothermal packaging that is flattened after use to optimise cost and CO2 emissions during transport. When the use-by dates allow it, give preference to maritime transport that is less prone to temperature excursions, more economical and more ecological by combining it with additional protection such as isothermal blankets that limit the rise in temperature during periods when the reefer is not plugged in. Favour large network isothermal supplier that sell and rent again isothermal packaging at final destination.

It is important to note, as this is not always the case, that taking an environmentally sound approach to temperature-controlled medicine transport can result in cost savings.