By Dan Catizone
Cold chain shipments often have to be transported to the obscure parts of the world under strictly controlled temperature conditions. Making sure that clinical specimens, vaccine, drugs or other biologicals reach their destination safely, securely and at the right temperature is a critical element of the drug discovery process. As a shipper, you need to ensure that your “cold chain” runs efficiently and with the least amount of adverse incidents. Here are some tips on how to make the shipping logistics process reliable and successful:
1. Choose the right courier
Your courier should specialize in Cold Chain logistics. Experienced couriers will have an established relationship with major airlines and intimate knowledge of each carrier's SOPs. Working with a courier that can best accommodate shippers transporting time and temperature critical material is a big step towards successful Cold Chain.
2. Get your Courier involved early in the process
Involve your courier representative into the shipment planning process as early as possible. With sufficient lead-time, the courier can select ideal routings and pick-up times to provide the fastest door-to-door transit time, therefore minimizing time the commodity remains inside the package. The earlier a courier gets involved, the easier it will be to establish the most important element of the shipping process--lines of communication. This will ensure that all the players in the process have up-to-date information on the progress of a cold chain shipment. Plus, if something goes wrong, (remember Murphy's Law?), the courier will know exactly who to contact.
3. Know the regulations
At any given time of the year, the regulatory environment can vary greatly from country to country, or even within the same country. Only a courier who possesses in-depth knowledge of these local issues and customs will be able to navigate your shipments through the process easily. Working closely with your courier will allow you to plan around these variations, to minimize their impact on the logistics process.
4. Proper paperwork
Find out what import and export documentation is required by working closely with your logistics department or transportation provider. Properly prepared paperwork before shipping internationally will help you avoid customs delays.
5. Proper Packaging
When it comes to maintaining the integrity of your cold chain commodities, outside temperature and time are the two enemies that are always working against you. Choose the correct "pre-qualified or validated" packaging system that is designed to maintain your specific temperature ranges as well as a proper temperature monitoring. Rips, dents, and tears will halt the shipping process. Train your staff on how to package the shipment correctly. Make sure you are also properly positioning your temperature monitoring devices to ensure the device is taking accurate readings. Conduct transit tests to validate the process and confirm that the packaging system will in fact maintain the temperature for the entire shipment’s journey.