MIAMI – When handling perishable and pharmaceutical goods, the panelists at the Cargo Facts Symposium 2015 all agreed that the best investment they could make is in training its cool-chain handling crews. The panelists at the “Pharma and Perishables Focus” session also called for global standards for efficiency and transparency, as well as the use of equipment designed to protect cool-chain cargo while it waits on the tarmac.
One of the leading, real-world examples of this ideal is Brussels Airport, which has a dedicated cargo zone and a strong focus on perishables and pharmaceuticals throughout the supply chain. Steven Polmans, head of cargo sales and marketing at Brussels, said the airport was one of the first to earn certification in IATA’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validaotrs for Pharmaceuticals (CEIV-Pharma), and is also investing in training knowledgeable people.
Panelist Leandro Moreira, director of life sciences for Brinks Global Services, placed emphasis on patient safety and said that Brinks has a well-trained team dedicated to pharma because “nothing can be done if you lose a patient.” He said the chain of custody is crucial in life sciences.
The panel’s moderator, Sebastiaan Scholte, CEO of Jan de Rijk Logistics and chairman of Europe’s Cool Chain Association, pointed out that the ramp is the weak link in most cool-chain operations. Moreira agreed, saying that 57 percent of problems occur on the tarmac, calling it a “black hole.”
Neel Shah, president of JS Aviation Consulting, also said investment in infrastructure and technologies can help reduce problems with temperature incursions on the tarmac. For example, one of his clients, Able Freight, which focuses on pharmaceuticals and other perishables, has developed the Kold Kart, which is a like a big portable refrigerator to regulate perishables and pharma when they are waiting on the ramp.
Shah also works with Sendum, a wireless, real-time tracking/data logger. The goal is to solve problems with loss, theft or damage, since the device tracks the freight at all times, detecting changes in temperature and location. As far as overall loss goes, for all perishables and pharma, he said large companies still build in 15 to 18 percent for loss. But as carriers step up their game that should improve, he said.
Cargolux Airlines was the first carrier to have A/C thermal analysis and retrofits with temperature loggers, said panelist Stavros Evangelakakis, global product manager for Cargolux. It was also the first airline to be GDP-certified. As a result, Cargolux gets a fare share of pharma business, and has invested into training and processes for its people, he said.
All panelists also agreed that there should be some sort of a global standard for efficiency and transparency. Evangelakakis agreed but brought up the point that in underdeveloped countries it might take two days on the ground to reach a patient, so an alternative solution is needed in those cases.
Lastly, the panelists brought up the question of modal shift. Evangelakakis said a shift to surface modes has always been a reality, but certain goods – vaccines, insulin and the like – have to go by air. Shah said that there are plenty of products that can go by other slower, less-expensive modes, but there are times when speed trumps price. As an example, he cited the McDonald’s fast food chain. When its stories in Europe ran out of French fries last year during the U.S. West Coast port crisis, they hired airfreight charters to ensure there would be no shortages. To this day, he added, the restaurant still uses airfreight more than it did before.