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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Up in the Clouds

PMPS: What is a typical day for you?

Renate de Walle: Typical days are rare; however, I do have some guiding principles I follow daily, and I have a morning routine which centres my thoughts and recalls my main priorities, enabling me to start the day prepared and focused. In addition, I try to balance both the large and small elements of my role, alongside scheduled and unscheduled activities. Last but not least, I try to make every interaction count.

What drives you to succeed?

I am motivated by being part of a team that serves a unique industry, which employs millions of people saving or improving others’ lives. Transporting healthcare products by air depends on complex logistical methods to maintain each shipment’s integrity. It requires specific equipment, storage facilities, harmonised handling procedures and, above all, strong cooperation among cold chain partners. Taking on new challenges and seeing the success of service solutions for the pharmaceutical industry, in order for them to improve quality of life for all, pushes me to go that extra mile.

What are the issues involved in maintaining temperature?

Numerous risks are associated with transport logistics that could lead to a failure in the cold chain. Temperature changes during transportation can be a serious threat to product integrity. Quality, reliability and performance are essential. The two most important issues for the industry and its logistics providers are to clarify mutual expectations between the stakeholders involved, and to minimise risks for air freight within the cold chain.

What are the most common causes of delay in transporting a product from A to B?

Data from the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics – to whom airlines report – show that the most common causes of delay in air freight transportation are: the aircraft arriving late (often resulting in a snowball effect); air carrier delay (for example, aircraft on ground or suffering technical problems); and delays and cancellations (such as those attributable to the National Aviation System, or adverse weather conditions).

What knock-on effects can this have?


Air freight allows businesses to operate in a more flexible way, in terms of quick inventory movements and routing of time-sensitive products. The fast transit times and seamless connections to final destinations allow air shipments to be timed according to production schedules, helping to improve inventory flow. If delays occur, it can have ramifications throughout the entire healthcare sector – varying from medicine shortages to disruptions in the throughput times of pharmaceutical manufacturing processes.

When is it best to ship by air, as opposed to any other means?


Although there are numerous considerations in transport method selection, the pharma industry relies on air transport for its speed, reliability and efficiency in delivering high-value, time-sensitive, temperature-controlled product shipments. Air freight can involve a journey of just a few days, whereas sea freight transport, for instance, will be counted in weeks.

How important is it to have suitable facilities in place at the airport?

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are a real threat to public health and safety. Consequently, it is essential to protect the supply chain against the penetration of such products. Cold chain facilities and processes should be suitable for the handling of all products under appropriate conditions (and climate controlled when necessary), thereby meeting the requirements of manufacturers.

What options are available for temperature-sensitive products?


When time- and temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals or healthcare products – such as chilled (2°C to 8°C) or ambient (15°C to 25°C) – are delivered via air freight, the choice can be made to transport with an active (cooler engines) or passive (insulated packaging) cooling system, or a combination of both.

When should you use either active or passive packaging?


The decision on whether to use active or passive packaging, or a combination of the two, to transport temperature-sensitive products is largely determined by assessing the product’s requirements, the shipper’s approach and attitude to risk, the destination, and the cost involved. One solution will not necessarily fit all, but the best system for each shipment can be found if you have a comprehensive understanding of the options available.

Are there any gaps in the cold chain which you believe need filling?

Validated monitoring technology further increases supply chain visibility and compliance, making it possible not only to track shipments in real time, but also to monitor their environmental status and intervene through quality assurance. The latter can only be successfully accomplished if parties collaborate.

If you could change one thing about the air freight industry, what would it be?

To support future demand, there is further room for pharma companies, freight forwarders, airlines and other parties in the cool chain to work together in a truly collaborative approach based on mutual trust and an increased transparency.

How do you think pharma logistics may change in the decade ahead?

Fuelled by rising global demand, I think that the importance of pharma logistics in meeting tighter regulations – such as those involved in temperature management – will become increasingly important. Over the next decade, parties in the cold chain will also have to respond to the changing market landscape, such as implementing a direct-to-market approach for speciality products, and value-focused approaches for generics. In addition, the further development of personalised medicines will have implications for the whole logistics industry.

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Renate de Walle, Director of Product Market Group Pharmaceutical Logistics, joined Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo in 2013. She has worked for the AIR FRANCE KLM Group since 1998, where she held several managerial positions within the Passenger Division. Renate studied at the University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands, and at Webster University, US, from which she obtained her BCom and MBA degrees.
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