Whether you are working with cell therapies, biologics, drug product, or biospecimens, temperature is an omnipresent concern that requires your attention. From a logistics standpoint, maintaining appropriate temperature conditions is of utmost importance to ensure your material arrives at its final destination with its integrity intact. Therefore, it is no surprise that within our industry the definition of cold chain is expanding beyond cold temperatures to include both ambient and controlled room temperature (CRT) shipments.
Recently our team received a request to utilize pre-qualified shippers for both ambient and CRT conditions to ensure the integrity of the drugs throughout the chain of custody. When transporting drug some damage is easy to detect. For example, physical damage to the product or packaging will indicate the product is not suitable for use. However, damage caused by temperature excursions is almost always impossible to detect. By switching to pre-qualified shippers, we are able to minimize the impact of temperature on the product during shipping in a way that is cost effective and scalable.
As a team of 14 individuals who process on average 1600 shipments per month, this was an enormous undertaking impacting all aspects of the operation.
Previously we discussed the considerations associated with controlled room temperature shipments. In this blog I’d like to expand upon that and explain how we introduced room temperature pre-qualified shippers into our operations, the overall impact to our operational workflow and the ultimate benefit to our client.
Selecting the Shippers
The selected pre-qualified shippers were chosen based on several factors including cost, payload, duration (minimum 48 hours) and ultimately the client’s approval.
To incorporate these shippers into our workflow we identified two different types of pre-qualified shipping containers; one for ambient shipments (2-30°C) and the other for CRT (15-25°C) shipments. Depending on the type of shipment different types and temperatures of insulation were used.
Impact to the Operational Workflow
Storage: Once our team identified the best suited pre-qualified shippers, we needed to determine where we could store these new supplies. We took inventory of what would be needed on a daily basis to execute our shipments and redesigned areas of the warehouse by moving tables and equipment, adding shelves and supports to tables to store supplies, and conducting dry runs of shipments to test our configurations to ensure smooth implementation.
The utilization of these pre-qualified shippers have impacted our workflow and workload, pulling processes, modes of shipment, supply and freight cost, storage layouts, walk-in cold units’ shelving arrangements, our ordering processes with our vendors, and courier’s pickup times.
Preparing Packages for Shipment: By incorporating pre-qualified shippers into our operations we nearly tripled our package preparation time (from 30 seconds to 1 minute 20 seconds per package) under ideal circumstances. Considering the increased workload and the same number of team members, necessary steps have been implemented to enable us to process the same number of orders per month as before.
Shipping Operations: In order to make sure the shipments arrive to their destination within the 24-48 hours desired time period, we use standard overnight and priority overnight service. We process the orders and requests as soon as possible to make sure the shipments are received by the recipients and the patients in a timely manner.
The Benefit of Pre-qualified Shippers
As a team, we operate under the principle that there is a patient waiting. Thus, we perform our tasks as efficiently and accurately to ensure the patients receive their medications in a timely manner. Introducing pre-qualified shippers into our workflow allows us to provide the highest quality medicine to our patients by limiting an invisible source of drug damage due to temperature excursions.
What does this mean for our industry?
Change is coming. Using pre-qualified ambient and CRT shippers help to maintain the integrity of room temperature drug in transit. And while all clients aren’t requesting pre-qualified shippers for ambient and CRT shipments, it’s only a matter of time before this becomes an industry-wide practice.
To learn more about risk mitigation and how to select the correct transport provider to safely move your irreplaceable biospecimen collection, download our InfoPoster!