Cool School: Inside the CEIV-Pharma certification program

CoolSchool_ACW0615ftThere is a saying, “You never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” That’s the basic idea behind the International Air Transport Association’s ambitious Center of Excellence for Independent Validators program for the handling of pharmaceutical materials. The somewhat new “CEIV-Pharma” certification, as it is known, has been created to ensure that every step in the value chain for pharmaceutical transport is transparent and that every stakeholder knows exactly what the others are doing at a cool-chain facility.

CEIV-Pharma certification has been a much-discussed method to standardize the airfreight industry and gauge excellence in temperature-sensitive cargo. But what actually goes on behind the scenes during the certification process? And what does CEIV-Pharma certification mean for the airfreight industry at large?

Some of the first airfreight entities to answer these questions may be the group of ground handlers, forwarders, airlines, truckers and shippers at Brussels Airport, collectively known as “BRUcargo.” Their close-knit affiliation at the Belgian hub is an example of the advancing concept of an airport “cargo community,” where each member of the value chain is symbiotically linked to each other. This unity made Brussels Airport the perfect environment in which IATA could roll out its first CEIV-Pharma certification training classes over a six-month period last year.

Still, even with the bonds that had been formed between BRUcargo firms, the CEIV experience was an eye-opener for many. “We found out that a lot of shippers don’t really know how ramp operators work,” said Hendrik Leyssens, quality manager at the Belgian office of cargo handler Swissport Cargo Services. “They don’t know the trip the cargo takes and how much time is needed. We can’t just use a catapult to shoot it across the cargo area.”

Such moments are what the CEIV program was designed to uncover, and eventually solve, through mutual cooperation, sharing of data and an emphasis on teamwork. Over a period of several days, spread across a six-month span, participants in CEIV are allowed to address their role in the cool-chain process, discuss potential bottlenecks and break down the barriers between each stakeholder in a nonconfrontational manner.

“When you have lunch together over 11 days – it’s a very informal way of communicating,” Leyssens said. “It really helps build camaraderie. We should be honest about the process times we provide the shippers. It’s all about exchanging best practices and processes in order to be able to align. We shouldn’t promise what we can’t achieve.”

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