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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Emerging Safely

The ever-changing cold chain industry with its new products, regulatory updates and growing markets never ceases to surprise and challenge me. It is the main reason I find it so enjoyable and inspiring, although I am often met with an eye roll when caught re-adjusting the picnic hamper coolants, while also adding in that newly acquired thermal monitor.

In recent years, one of the biggest and most interesting developments has been that of emerging markets. As a thermal packaging developer, creating packaging solutions for these regions can offer up a whole new set of challenges that at first glance often go unseen.

At a basic level, the design process remains very much the same. We research and understand the key product and journey details, and from this we qualify a solution in the lab. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, in principal it is as simple as designing any other thermal package. However, we must keep in mind that, for some companies, it could be their first time using this type of thermal packaging, so we should be looking to understand if they have the infrastructure to manage what we are proposing.

I recently received a request for a pallet system capable of maintaining a product temperature of 2-8°C for 120 hours, travelling from India to the UK. What we discovered during the development process were not only limitations and risks linked to the company’s unfamiliarity with temperature-controlled distribution, but also additional obstacles in the supply chain itself which needed addressing during the thermal testing.

One example of this was that our pallet solution previously featured coolant packs over one metre in length. This was a design feature aimed to increase packing simplicity and reduce packing time. However, the client had no freezer large enough to store them. On top of this, the supply of power to their temperature-controlled storage facilities was intermittent, which would have led to wide irregularities in temperature during transportation.

As a curious person, I often discover such information during meetings and site visits. But with projects increasingly starting up in regions that are not a one hour flight away, I find myself more and more unable to make the journey to the site without impacting on the project lead time – which, as always, is never as long as we would like.

But with the aid of modern technology (a site tour via Skype can work well), the support of industry guidelines and, of course, experience, it can still be possible to work towards the best solution without missing a crucial point. What is key is that we are looking for that point to begin with.

It may seem easy to take templates of what is working in more established regions and apply those, unchanged, to the new market. However, this rarely works and as experts we have the responsibility to question this approach. It may take a little more time – it may in fact only require one more test – but what it yields is a far more suitable solution that considers the needs of these important emerging markets.


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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 temperaturecontrolled solutions for many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biotech corporations.
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