BlogReducing Supply Chain DamageCold chain shipping loss in pharmaceuticals is a serious problem that better tracking can help.

Temperature excursion, or the deviation from safe handling and transport practices, is a major concern for pharmaceutical manufacturers. Understanding the most common reasons for temperature excursion arms supply chain managers with the knowledge needed to implement processes and tools that limit the risk of improper handling and prevent cold chain shipping losses in pharmaceuticals.

​Factors in Cold Chain Shipping Loss in Pharmaceuticals

Many pharmaceuticals must stay within a limited range of temperatures.While it’s understood that temperature excursion is a primary cause of pharmaceutical loss, what’s less clear is the root cause of issues with temperature control. Many temperature issues arise when the shipping company isn’t prepared to adjust its practices for the unique needs of pharmaceuticals. Common factors in poor temperature management include:

  • Inadequate training: In a typical environment, the difference between temperatures a few degrees apart isn’t noticeable. For delicate pharmaceuticals, however, it can impact their efficacy or make them entirely unusable. Employees who lack training on the risks of cold chain failure may not follow proper protocols. 
  • Limited accountability: While this certainly isn’t true for all employees, there is a risk that unmonitored employees may feel comfortable letting protocols slide if they know they won’t be held accountable for them. This can lead to breaks in the chain that are hard to identify. 
  • Movement delays:  A pallet that sits too long on the tarmac or a loading dock is enough to create a break in the cold chain that damages the integrity of the product. These delays aren’t planned for, but when they happen they can lead to loss of the entire shipment. 
  • Oversight of other variables: Temperature isn’t the only important factor when shipping pharmaceuticals. The moisture content of the air and exposure of sensitive pharmaceuticals to light and vibration can also cause issues with the efficacy of products. Despite that, only 35 percent of companies report using humidity monitoring in some form during shipping, and even fewer monitor light or vibration.

These are the main reasons that cold chain shipping losses occur, though often, the most significant losses come from a combination of these factors. To eliminate these problems, companies need to consider implementing tools and protocols that allow for better tracking, improved accountability, and enhanced product protection. 

Tips for Resolving Temperature Excursion in the Cold Chain 

Plastic pallets can be embedded with trackable RFID tags.When you consider the causes of temperature excursion, it becomes clear that pallet tracking is one solution that could make major strides in eliminating these issues. The ability to monitor platforms as they move through the supply chain allows managers to build-in accountability and find areas where there is an opportunity for improvement. 

RFID tags that are scanned when the pallet enters and leaves a facility can build a picture of the location of pallets of pharmaceuticals throughout the supply chain.

This starts with RFID tracking. Radio-frequency identification is a superior method to traditional pallet barcodes as it allows the storage of more information and makes it easier to capture that information. Pallet information can easily be scanned using RFID readers into a Warehouse Management System, with accompanying instructions like temperature and humidity requirements. RFID tags that are scanned when the pallet enters and leaves a facility can also build a picture of the time and location of pallets of pharmaceuticals throughout the supply chain. This makes it possible for supply chain managers to identify lapses in the supply chain.

An RFID tag can make temperature excursions easier to identify and manage.A crucial aid in using RFID successfully is plastic pallets. These pallets allow RFID tags to be securely embedded and, because of the durability of plastic pallets, ensures that RFID tags will not come off the pallet or be left behind on a broken or replaced pallet board. As an added benefit, plastic is a nonporous material, so it won’t absorb condensation as it moves in and out of temperature zones. This means that, unlike wood pallets, plastic pallets don’t mold or mildew or encourage the growth of bacteria. Plastic pallets are also easy to clean and sanitize, reducing cross-contamination as a result of spills that might be absorbed into the pores of a wood pallet.

Using plastic pallets embedded with RFID tags is one cold chain best practice that builds traceability into the supply chain.

Cold chain shipping loss in pharmaceuticals is an expensive problem, but it is resolvable with some basic changes to processes and tracking methods. Using plastic pallets embedded with RFID tags is one cold chain best practice that builds traceability into the supply chain and to ensure better hygiene. This results in a safer supply chain that protects the integrity of medications from the manufacturer to the retailer.

Renting iGPS plastic pallets can help you reduce cold chain shipping loss in pharmaceuticals with easy RFID tracking as well as redundant barcode scanning. To learn more about our pallet pooling options, call 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.