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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Indications of a Bright Future

Red means stop; green means go: visual indicators are all around us. Richard Harrop muses over the benefits of a wide variety of monitoring options for temperaturec-ontrolled products

From a young age, we quickly learn that a green light means it is safe to cross a road, and for my children it is also an opportunity to scold other pedestrians while they attempt to cross when the red light is glowing instead. Visual indicators that simply give us those yes/no, good/bad, pass/fail results are everywhere in modern life. They give us the confidence to proceed with safety and without concern.

When thinking about the delivery of temperature-controlled products, we also have indicators that enable us to confirm that our goods have been maintained at a safe temperature. However, the variety of options available can often be a little overwhelming. I myself have been asked on a number of occasions to suggest an optimal device, and as somebody who enjoys research I was always happy to explore the options and discover the very best fit. I have found that the best place to start when considering the inclusion of a device to record temperature within a thermal package is to ask: what is the answer I want?

The response may seem simple. You want to know if the products stayed at the correct temperature, right? Well that’s one answer. However, if we look a little deeper, there are a number of other factors that can result in us selecting very different devices that could potentially save money, increase quality or even improve our packaging.

Since I started developing thermal packaging, I have been a strong advocate of the inclusion of a digital monitor that would record temperature at set intervals – two per system, in fact. My preference for this linked to my desire to improve design by gaining a better understanding of the real world experiences of the system I had designed. In addition, should a problem occur during shipment, it would be a simpler task to define the cause and quickly take action to prevent future occurrences.

All of this information is great, but if the objective is to give the final recipient immediate confidence in a product, you could be relying on a number of often unobtainable details. For example, do they have the IT infrastructure to download the device, and have they been shown how to understand the output?

For a situation needing an immediate indication of whether a product is okay or not okay to use, there are a variety of chemical and electronic devices designed for this purpose alone. Ten years ago, I would have been very cautious about advising on a chemical option as my lab testing of these devices often concluded very poorly. However, today it’s a very different story. I am constantly inspired by the capability, price and non-invasive size of these items.

Of course, these indicators won’t give you the step-by-step details of the distribution. This information will always be a huge benefit when considering projects such as cost engineering for packaging, and in the past I have been able to reduce system cost by up to 40 per cent when two years of shipping data is at hand. Still, sometimes all we really want is a yes or a no.

I could happily continue for many more pages regarding which option is the better – but that is a decision for you to make, based on your specific requirement. What I really wanted to share was that we now seem to have a number of very viable options in all categories, and there is nothing better than lots of choice.

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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 temperature-controlled packaging industry for over 10 years. During this time he has developed and implemented several successful temperature-controlled solutions for many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biotech corporations.
Richard Harrop
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