The global COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for a timely and effective pharmaceutical cold chain as never before. Rapid delivery of the vaccines needed to fight the virus depended on coming up with innovations that could ensure tight control over the temperature of shipments spanning the globe. Controlant stepped up.
Controlant provided monitoring and digital supply chain visibility to Pfizer, whose COVID-19 vaccine needed to be maintained at a temperature of around -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit) during storage and in transit. (The usual cold-chain standard for most vaccines is between 2-8 degrees Celsius.) In certain parts of the world, the company supplied similar monitoring services for the Moderna vaccine, which was equally temperature-sensitive.
In the world of vaccine distribution, the stakes are high. According to Controlant, temperature variations result in the degradation of up to 35% of the world’s vaccines each year. The biopharma industry loses an estimated $35 billion annual due to temperature-related logistics failures.
An Integrated Effort
To keep the Pfizer vaccine safe, Controlant worked directly with the U.S. government and health officials, supplying onsite monitoring at government-preferred locations. The goal was to ensure continuity of distribution during the entire journey of the Pfizer vaccine, from manufacturer to end user.
The vaccine supply chain entails multiple handoffs, each of which presents the risk of contamination of the sensitive materials. As a result, the vaccines had to be shipped in thermal containers that were designed to hold dry ice during both transport and storage.
The old technology of passive data loggers for monitoring shipment conditions lacks the degree of visibility necessary for ensuring the quality and safety of life-saving pharmaceuticals, Controlant notes. Such devices generally are limited to receiving descriptive data, reporting on what happened after the fact.
Under normal circumstances, it can take years to set up a distribution model for accommodating new pharmaceuticals. Controlant accomplished the task in a matter of months, deploying multiple integrated control towers, sharing data across all stakeholders, and implementing processes for tight collaboration all along the supply chain.
Controlant’s “cold chain as a service” is a supply chain visibility offering that comprises real-time internet-of-things (IoT) data loggers, access to a software platform in the cloud, and round-the-clock monitoring and response.
Data generated by the tool allows users both to respond to proactive alerts and analyze trends over time. They can identify instances of products being delayed at specific locations, pallets being split or arriving at the wrong destination, general security issues, and problems at customs borders. In the event, they can make choices on which routes to take, the best packaging materials to utilize, and which supply chain partners to use in a given situation.
Logging the Data
The IoT data loggers are placed inside boxes, crates, pallets or shipping containers, depending on product type and applicable regulations. They monitor the content’s quality, location, temperature, exposure to light and other shipping specifications. Alerts registered by the loggers are keyed to pre-defined business rules.
Once the product is in transport, Controlant’s digital supply chain visibility platform captures the relevant data in a single repository that integrates with other I.T. systems such as enterprise resource planning and quality management. The tool’s control tower serves to unite disparate information systems employed by various supply chain partners during the product’s journey, including manufacturers, governments, health systems, carriers, third-party logistics providers and distribution centers, furnishing all users with “a single source of truth.”
With the help of Controlant’s technology, Pfizer and its supply chain partners were able to keep the vaccine excursion rate low. Pfizer’s chief executive officer has stated that 99.99% of the company’s vaccines were successfully received and administered.
In the months and years ahead, Controlant sees an increasing focus on building supply chain resilience in the cold chain, as manufacturers and distribution partners work to automate processes, improve communication and boost efficiency. “The vaccine distribution project shows that the supply chain can make monumental, positive strides in maintaining and maximizing patient safety, product quality condition and delivery speed,” Controlant says.
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