Play It Cool, Boy - Real Cool
There are three pieces of information every manager needs to know about perishable products in their supply chain:
1) How many do I have?
2) Where are they?
3) When do they expire?
Yes, there are other important details (such as the cost of the goods) but in order to properly manage products on a daily basis, that’s the list. Airplane seats are a good example. Airlines know the number of open seats on the flight, the airport at which they’re located and the time the flight departs. You wouldn’t consider managing with less information. It’s the epitome of a perishable product – the open seats become worthless at the moment of the plane’s departure.
Perishable products on a pallet are no different. Every manager knows the number of products and the identity of the truck or warehouse location where they’re housed. But the products’ condition is often nothing more than a guess. With food, pharmaceuticals, medical devices or industrial chemicals, the expiration date is typically the best gauge we have (until the deterioration is obvious). Unfortunately, the expiration date is only a prediction based on average storage conditions.
The actual expiration, or “product life,” is a moving target – it can be much shorter or longer than the expected expiration date. It’s an invisible attribute that’s affected mainly by the temperature variances that the products are subjected to during storage and transportation.
Temperatures of products during shipment have been monitored for decades. However, temperatures are usually monitored for a small segment of a product’s life simply to verify that products were shipped under acceptable conditions (or that a reefer unit isn’t broken). The cost and complexities of monitoring and logging conditions from production to consumption have been too daunting to be practical.
TempTRIP, LLC of Broomfield, Colorado, now offers a system that makes continual temperature monitoring an economic reality. The company manufactures credit-card sized electronic temperature-logging “tags” that are inexpensive, reusable and have a five-year battery life. But, more importantly, TempTRIP has built an efficient system of identifying, retrieving and transferring temperature results to each company’s secure page on TempTRIP’s website.
When tags are ordered online, TempTRIP tracks the company and location to where they will be shipped. As tags are started and attached to products, the unique ID of the tag and product are correlated, electronically. As the tags travel with the goods, temperature results can be extracted at any point with or without removing them from the pallets or boxes to which they’re attached.
Throughout the life of a perishable product, the temperature results are accumulated and used to accurately calculate the amount of life left in the product. So, you’ll know if those strawberries have ten or only five days left. You’ll know if a drug is still efficacious or if it’s time to discard it.
It’s not only the immediate results that are important. Over time, companies are able to build data into useful information for improving the conditions – and thus the useful life – of the products in their supply chain. All data collected in the TempTRIP system are available in easy-to-understand Web pages where companies can review, report, analyze and archive their results without installing any software.
TempTRIP emphasizes that the life of a perishable product includes many different “segments” of transportation and storage. After all, it’s a cold chain, not just a link. Rather than treating temperature monitoring as an emergency service – fixing wrecks as they occur – the TempTRIP system provides meaningful temperature records that include data from all segments as products are transported and stored.
TempTRIP has been successful at building an easy-to-implement, affordable system that connects all segments in a product’s life, stores historic data and makes information transparent and accessible. Companies that are serious about protecting and extending the life of their products as well as managing their cold chain over time can benefit from TempTRIP’s technology.
DHL Claim Multi-Sector Collaboration Key to Fighting COVID
Since January, global logistics leader DHL has distributed more than 200 million doses of the COVID vaccine to 120+ countries around the globe. While the US and UK recently rolled out immunisation plans to most citizens, countries with less developed infrastructure still desperately need more doses. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which currently has one of the highest per-capita immunisation rates, the government set up storage facilities to cover domestic and international demand. But storage, as we’ve learned, is little help if you can’t transport the goods.
This is where logistics leaders such as DHL make their impact. The company built over 50 new partnerships, bilateral and multilateral, to collaborate with pharmaceutical and private sector firms. With more than 350 DHL centres pressed into service, the group operated 9,000+ flights to ship the vaccine where it needed to go.
With new pandemic knowledge, DHL just released its “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience” white paper, which examined the role of logistics and supply chain companies in handling COVID-19. As Thomas Ellman, Head of Clinical Trials Logistics at DHL, said: “The past one year has highlighted the importance of logistics and supply chain management to manage the pandemic, ensure business continuity and protect public health. It has also shown us that together we are stronger”.
Multisector partnerships, DHL said, enabled rapid, effective vaccine distribution. While international scientists developed a vaccine in record time—five times faster than any other vaccine in history—manufacturers ramped up production and logistics teams rolled out distribution three times faster than expected. When commercial routes faced backups, logistics operators worked with military officers to transport vaccines via helicopters and boats.
In the UAE, the public-private HOPE Consortium distributed billions of COVID-19 doses to its civilians as well as other countries in need by partnering with commercial organisations such as DHL. For the first time, apropo for an unprecedented pandemic, logistics companies made strong connections with public health and government.
“While the race against the virus continues, leveraging the power of such collaborations and data analytics will be key”, said Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer DHL and Head of DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “We need to remain prepared for high patient and vaccine volumes, maintain logistics infrastructure and capacity, while planning for seasonal fluctuations by providing a stable and well-equipped platform for the years to come”.
How Do We Sustain Immunisation?
By the end of 2021, experts estimate that we need approximately 10 billion doses of vaccines—many of which will be shipped to areas of the world, such as India, South Africa, and Brazil, that lack significant infrastructure. This is perhaps the greatest divide between countries that have rolled out successful immunisation programmes and those that have not. As Busch noted, “the UAE’s significant investments in creating robust air, sea, and land infrastructure facilitated logistics and vaccine distribution, helping us keep supply chains resilient”.
Neither is the novel coronavirus a one-time affair. If predictions hold, COVID will be similar to seasonal colds or the flu: here to stay. When fall comes around each year, governments will need to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible to ensure long-term immunisation against the virus. This time, logistics companies must be better prepared.
Yet global immunisation, year after year, is no small order. To keep reinfection rates low and slow the spread of COVID, governments will likely need 7-9 billion annual doses of the vaccine to meet that mark. And if DHL’s white paper is any judge of success, multi-sector supply chain partnerships will set the gold standard.