Pharmaceutical cold chain logistics is a very complex operation with many stakeholders involved. The common goal of all parties is to ensure that the pharmaceuticals maintain optimal quality until they reach the patients.
Active or Passive Containers for Temperature-Controlled Logistics
For temperature-controlled transport, there are two types of packaging solutions to choose between – active or passive packaging. The difference between active and passive packaging/containers is that an active container has active temperature control, which adjusts the temperature inside the container to keep the specified temperature range.
No matter what solution you have chosen for temperature-controlled transport, you have to be prepared for unforeseen events.
Active containers have electrical cooling and heating systems or cooling with dry ice. Passive solutions, on the other hand, are insulated boxes or containers without any active temperature control. Thus, passive packaging makes no adjustments according to ambient temperatures, even if the products are delivered in ambient temperatures ranging from +35°C in Dubai to -15°C in Alaska. Active units can also be plugged in and continue to protect the cargo in case of flight delays or other unforeseen circumstances. Active containers are thus by far the safest alternative.
The costs usually look higher at face value with active containers, but they take up much less cargo space and require less handling. A thorough analysis when all factors are considered could very well show that the Total Landed Cost for the different solutions is similar. Large active units often even have a lower Total Landed Cost compared to passive solutions.
Setting the quality aspects of the transport aside, Total Landed Cost, or TLC for short, can be used to compare the costs of different alternatives. For temperature-controlled logistics, costs can be grouped into the following categories:
- Lease/purchase price: Active containers are leased and returned after use. Passive boxes must be bought and stored in advance as well as be preconditioned before use.
- Refrigerants: Cooling material such as dry ice must be bought in advance. Containers using electrical cooling and heating technology do not need any extra refrigerants.
- Temperature monitors: Sensors that can monitor the temperature inside the packaging or container in real time. Often it is not needed for active containers, which has inbuilt sensors for data logging.
- Handling and preparation: Man-hours to assemble and prepare the packaging.
- Trucking: Transportation of the solution from the manufacturing site to the airport or warehouse.
- Airfreight: The cost charged by the airline for the transportation of the products.
- Disposal costs: Costs for disposal of packaging materials and consumables. Materials for passive packages can sometimes be reused but is often disposed of at the destination. Leased containers are returned for reuse.