In general, the cold chain industry changes slowly; and the factors responsible for it are time, cost and criticality. The industry is taking time to adopt new technologies from a regulatory standpoint; the cost component is extremely high for implementing changes. Due to lack of drives in the past years, the supply chain model hasn’t seen a drastic change. However, the ongoing pandemic is encouraging the supply chain for a gigantic switch to digitalization.
Digitalization in the supply chain
As the industry is facing several challenges and we have less time to deliver things to different places. We have started to lean on technology to reshape the way we do things. As technology evolves and becomes more widely available at a lower cost, the cost models are changing to adopt new technologies cost-effectively.
In a pharmaceutical supply chain, we have manufacturers, patients and logistics forming a triangle. We have the logistics organization on the top of moving products, then packaging providers contribute to keep products safe for the supply chain, followed by monitoring companies that confirm to deliver the products wherever needed at the perfect time and maintaining the right temperature. These companies forming the pillar are now using different data and digitalization value to improve their process and react quickly. Optimizing the supply lines helps risk reduction in real-time, as one can view shipment presently and identify potential risk preventing several supply chain issues.
The packaging companies are using data to create the right shipping and packaging design for a specific supply chain to reduce cost throughout the process. Additional data gathered in the packaging world can drive action allowing us to track assets. Using data logger and assets’ information, companies can make faster decisions, predictive analysis, continuous improvement, and drive upstream and downstream decision making.
Data-driven systematic approach
Data and information captured at all these points can help decide the right logistics to deliver things rightly packed at the assured time at an appropriate cost. In the industry, now we are at a point where the real value comes from intelligently leveraging data into actionable information.
IoT technology and data capture
Automated data capturing helps in achieving clean and intelligent data, which people can use to get faster in their activities saving a ton of cost and identifying trends before they evolve into problems. We can create a data-driven workspace for quality decision making. In the future, qualification and validation will advance and change around these technologies, which will help in making decisions on real-time in risk-prone areas. All of this will drive event notification remotely, identify the best next step in packaging and real-life conditions, automate redeployment in the event of loss and leverage event data to fine-tune the entire supply chain.
Types of wireless transfer
Cellular 5G, 4G, 3G, 2G technologies to transmit data in real-time have become a new trend in the industry as they drive much value. Cellular technology allows visibility on different measures that your device monitors and enables you to use the data. LET technology consumes low power providing wide area networks. NB IoT, LoRa/ SIGFOX allows connectivity like a cellular space at much lower cost and technologies, driving wireless wide-area IoT into the next level. Leveraging some of these wireless networks, we are starting to get IoT technology at a negligible cost, allowing us to use it in a widespread manner.
Short-range or personal area network
Bluetooth, thread and Zigbee are short-range networks up to 10 to 100 m range. In a supply chain, short-area wireless networks can be leveraged to capture data at a lower cost.
Proximity networks such as NFC and RFID can be used for near field communication or things that you need to be close to. A very near-range wireless transfer, allowing you to gather information without plugging a USB into a computer, without a longer and more difficult download.
The price range between the wireless network range varies depending on the distance used for communication or wireless transmission.
Select the right technology
To select the right technology, you need to understand what you’re trying to solve, as every IoT technology will solve different problems. The vendors need to understand what you’re trying to solve so that they can help you select the right technology. While doing that, you should focus on long term strategy, as cost and implementing change in the future play a role in the long term IoT technology selection.
Understand whether you want to own the technology or leverage vendors’ – specifically for the packaging and IoT tracking world it is necessary. There are several pros and cons to owning and leveraging technology. Owning the technology provides the ability to pick the right fit technology to customise your supply chain to drive value. Leveraging third-party vendor technology often gives you the ability to leverage vendors to provide you with new technologies that enter the market, enabling you with the latest technologies and values. If you choose a third-party data provider, make sure the data is accessible for free. Scalability in business can adjust their logistics services and control costs based on anticipated volume.
Blockchain is a security protocol, a decentralized protocol. There are places in the supply chain where we can work with them. Blockchain can be a big part of our supply chain in the future, but you need to understand how you can use that technology to improve your supply chain.
You need to understand blockchain from an unbiased source. In the pharmaceutical world, private and public blockchain data have a big impact on the organization for validation and security impact with your proper IT group. Before you drive in, you need to understand how it will impact your organization and how it can be handled, its cost and the value it derives from the technology. Once that’s clear, you can decide if it adds value, such as smart contracts, serialization, etc.
Effects on the packaging world
All of these new technologies access to data drives change in the packaging world. Visibility into the freight world specifically has continued to progress on the performance perspective of the shipment. The timing and ability to have data in real-time encourages people to focus better on selecting the right packaging and supply lane. Tracking technology makes it easier and cost-effective to manage and implement various technologies, looking to be incorporated into the packaging at the power and parcel level to add value.
Because of continued divergence from the commercial packaging, clinical packaging consists of flexible sizes for variability of products and kit sizes. It has failure-proof solutions for variable shipping lanes and technologies easy to use and deploy across multiple regions. It also consists of flexible return programs for clinical site variability. On the commercial side, a mixer of custom and commercially available shippers – to optimize pack out. Technologies are custom qualified to specific product temperature range. It also has qualified shipping lanes with strong control and wider stability of data.
In cell gene therapy, failure is not an option. Visibility and chain of custody offer new requirements into the supply chain, it demands ready to use solutions and as cell gene therapy moves from clinical to commercial, all parts of the supply chain will have to adopt new technologies.