Cost-effectiveness has always been paramount in the transportation of pharmaceutical products. But with health services seeing budgets slashed and prescription trends looking sluggish, achieving value for money has become crucial.
Exposure to extreme high or low temperatures during shipment can severely reduce the efficacy of a product, and the long stretches that potentially compromised cargoes spend in quarantine are another source of unnecessary cost. A cold chain informationprogramme can help, according to Niclas Ohlsson, managing director of TSS AB.
TSS is a leading provider of products and services related to cold-chain management, with a focus on temperature monitoring. Its main offering is the cold chain information system (CCIS), a web-based programme developed in conjunction with its partners in the pharmaceutical industry. It is not just hardware or software, but an end-to-end temperature monitoring and analysis system.
"The basis for any temperature monitoring system is launching the monitor, then capturing and retrieving the temperature data," Ohlsson says. "Our specific focus is on managing that information, rather than on the data logger itself."
The CCIS is SAP-enabled, which allows the simple transfer of high-quality data with reduced potential for human error. Clients load the data logger with their own pre-programmed profile, with customised alarms, trip tags and sample rates.
A profile can be selected either manually from a dropdown menu, or automatically using a 2D barcode. "You set the profile and place it with the shipment as it moves from A to B," Ohlsson explains. "When it arrives you unpack, take the data logger, download the data onto the web, and it will automatically give you a summary report proving that the product was at the right temperature during shipment."
The web-based functionality is a stand-out feature of the CCIS system. It means that multiple parties can access the information from any location, helping them to make quick, informed decisions. Although the data component has long been web-based, TSS has recently enabled customers to download and set-up their data logger software directly off the internet, bypassing the need for it to be installed on a PC. "In the past when you downloaded a data logger you had to manually synchronise it to a database," Ohlsson says. "Now it is truly web-based, providing instant access."
TSS takes a corporate approach to marketing the CCIS, providing systems uniformity across the transportation chain. In Ohlsson’s view, this eliminates technological and process-based disparities within an organisation, reducing costs in the process. It also allows customers to budget more accurately, knowing exactly how many data loggers will be required.
"It’s often up to each business unit or region to come up with their own data system and the processes around it," he says.
"If you don’t have a system that allows you to have a corporate strategy, which reduces local and manual activities, then you put
a high workload on pharmaceutical operations, which costs time and money. If you know your volumes of shipments then you know your volume of data loggers, giving you cost transparency."
Cost savings are not the only advantage of TSS’s corporate approach. Having all information on one system allows logistics experts and quality managers to compare and contrast data from different processes, allowing for more accurate internal analysis and better risk management. For example, a customer can match Cargo2k data with temperature records, or conduct trend analysis by comparing several shipments with respect to freight forwarder performance, routes or mode of transport.
"They can compare different products, systems, transport modes or even milestones," Ohlsson explains. "You can compare global rather than just regional data, giving companies a much better understanding of their operations."
Ohlsson sees great potential for growth. The movement of TSS’s customers into emerging markets together with an increased awareness of temperature monitoring call for solutions where the temperature records are secured.
"We know that our customers at any point can respond to ‘Show me the data, show me the evidence,’ he says. "All of these companies can gain increased opportunities from data. We are offering better tools so they can analyse their data, gain knowledge from it and integrate it with their risk management processes. We see our solutions becoming increasingly advanced and popular.