Most industries relish the opportunity to have their day in the sun. When you’ve hit on something the world needs, the influx of attention and funds can be highly gratifying.
Of course, sometimes that’s a double-edged sword. Take the case of cold chain management, which went under the world’s most grueling, high-stakes microscope when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and the need for temperature-controlled vaccines became dire. The supply chain industry nearly buckled under the enormous burden wrought by the pandemic, and cold-chain management experienced a whole different level of pressure.
The rollout of vaccines presented a literal life-and-death scenario: How can we transport unprecedented volumes of temperature-sensitive goods when the supply chain is already stretched thin? How can we ensure meticulous oversight and foolproof logistics? And how can we liaise between pharmaceutical, healthcare, government, transportation and distribution entities to ensure success?
However, that was just the beginning.
As we settle into another flu season and updated COVID boosters become available, the focus on vaccine distribution and the cold-chain logistics industry remains sky-high. While vaccines are top of mind, they’re not the only set of critical goods subject to the efficiency and integrity of the cold-chain system.
Within the healthcare industry alone, there are many other use cases for cold-chain distribution, and maintaining the integrity of temperature-sensitive goods is critical for patient outcomes. In addition to biologics and vaccines, cold chains are essential for blood and plasma products, organ transplants, and emerging therapies such as CAR-T cell treatments and gene therapeutics. Plus, a significant number of critical specialty pharmaceuticals require temperature management.
Not only must the items on this list (and more) be kept at a specific temperature, but they must be monitored and tracked to ensure they’re in the right place at the right time, and key stakeholders are notified if anything goes wrong. Lives are quite literally on the line.
Outside the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, cold chain logistics are crucial for goods we use every day — for starters, everything in your fridge right now, not to mention much of the nutrient-packed goods you’ll expect to find in your grocery store the next time you stock up.
Technology capabilities are constantly evolving. Spurred by the pandemic, supply chain managers have increasingly advanced resources at their fingertips. Chief among them is the internet of things (IoT).
The advent and acceleration of IoT technology have transformed cold-chain logistics. Through real-time monitoring and intervention capabilities, IoT devices stand as sentinels — preventing, mapping, monitoring and remediating vulnerabilities in the cold chain. Benefits include:
IoT has made a world of difference in cold-chain logistics. Interweaving IoT systems enables companies to streamline operations and gain real-time visibility across workflows. The cold-chain logistics industry finally has a strong pulse on operations and product quality, which in turn has helped save lives by ensuring the proper storage and delivery of vital vaccines, biologics and specialty pharmaceuticals.
The pandemic necessitated quick, decisive action, and hiccups were inevitable. While there’s no doubt that the pressure remains high, we now have the opportunity to learn from where we’ve been, and apply those lessons to level up even further.
Brandon Black is senior vice president and general manager of Ivanti Wavelink,
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