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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Finding the Right Box

Sometimes, the cool chain process can feel a little closer to home than usual – just ask Richard Harrop

It is not often that I am able to use my professional skills to help me outside of the office. Like the chef that cooks his family the best Christmas dinner or the carpenter that builds his son the world’s greatest tree-house, I can expertly pack my family’s worldly possessions into small boxes to ensure safety in transit – of course in a costefficient way – and for the last few weeks that is what I have been doing, in the process of moving home.

Had it been 10 years ago, it would have been a simple task of filling a bag and jumping on the first available plane. However, I am now a father and a husband; this means one bag has become 25m3 of belongings. It turns out that, although children are small, they come with hundreds of accessories, and along with these, I seem to have cupboards filled with enough delicate glasswear and china to start a small high street store. It is these items that need a little extra special care, and no cost is too great in ensuring their safe transit to our new abode – as I am told firmly by my much better half.

While working through the mammoth packing task, trying hard not to dwell on the thoughts of having to later unpack each box, I found myself thinking of the work I do with companies regarding the packaging of their goods. Although the value of my wine glasses is a little lower than that of the pharmaceutical products I have developed temperature-controlled packaging for, many of the criteria for picking the right solution remain the same: can it protect the product; is it the right price; and would I be able to prove the package is the right choice if I were asked?

For temperature-controlled packaging, the last year has produced some fantastic innovations, giving us options that were once unavailable, and now, more than ever, we can begin to feel at ease when answering some of those questions. However, what has excited me the most in 2010 is the talk about risk and failure identification. It is this that will help us make the right choice when looking across the growing field of performance options, and it’s great to hear these things being talked about more frequently, not only in conference environments.

Just like my concern that the truck carrying my worldly possessions to their next home may end up overturned and ablaze, or that I spend all my money on bubble wrap, we in the industry know that there are issues lurking around every corner, ready to bring about a nightmare excursion or push us to spend more. To counteract them, our industry now has systems that are considered the best at dealing with deep cold exposure, longer than expected transit times, return and re-use, and the dreaded customs official – to name just a few. However, with time spent investigating and grading potential issues early on, it becomes clear which system is right for the job.

What makes this even more exciting is the increasing drive to understand what is lurking out there beyond the perils of hot tarmacs and unserviced cold rooms. I am sure that 2011 will bring us even more innovative systems with completely new capabilities, and I for one will be watching this space (while desperately trying to unpack that last box).


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Richard Harrop is a qualified structural packaging design engineer, coming previously from the FMCG sector. He has been involved in the temperaturecontrolled packaging industry for almost 10 years. During this time he has developed and implemented several successful temperaturecontrolled solutions for many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biotech corporations.
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