How Smart Data Can Help Keep Healthcare Products Safe

It’s not always clear how to ship temperature-sensitive products. Comprehensive data analysis — with a little help from Sir Isaac Newton — makes it easier.

Moving temperature-sensitive products safely and effectively is one of the most challenging supply chain issues confronting healthcare companies around the world. Unpredictable weather (sometimes extreme), the speed of transport and other variables present serious risks to products that require temperature-controlled environments.

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Risk-Controlled Ambient Thermal Profile can improve the effectiveness of packaging and reduce risks.

Healthcare logistics executives want solutions to minimize spoilage and damage to shipments, maximize efficiency and most importantly, ensure consumers get a safe product.

Can data optimize delivery? Yes, according to results from a study launched by UPS and Sensitech® Inc. An innovative methodology called Risk-Controlled Ambient Thermal Profile (RCATP) can improve the effectiveness of packaging and reduce risks.

Getting it just right

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The right packaging protects temperature-sensitive products — but there is no single, fail-safe solution for every product.

Of course, thermal tertiary packaging can protect the quality of a temperature-sensitive product against exposure to temperatures outside of its ideal range.

The use of corrugated boxes, insulating and phase-change materials can help reduce the risk of damage, the expense of manufacturing and shipping replacement products and the loss of retail revenue. The worst-case scenario is that a consumer receives a compromised product.

However, choosing the proper packaging and shipping methods for each product is not simple. Over- or under-engineered packaging may decrease product efficacy and increase costs.

No matter how it’s packaged, there’s no telling what will happen to a temperature-sensitive product when a shipment unexpectedly ends up spending several hours in the hot Arizona sun or the freezing cold of Alaska.

Click here to read the Optimizing Packaging for Temperature-Sensitive Shipments white paper.

Data analysis is key

How can decision makers identify risks and choose the best shipping method for their products?

Data can lead the way.

To predict and quantify thermal risk in a shipping network, packaging designers use data from Ambient Temperature Profiles (ATPs). That information helps them create packaging prototypes that can maintain specified temperature ranges for specific times.

Which ATP provides the most helpful data?

Risk-Controlled Ambient Thermal Profile (RCATP) Methodology is an ATP that uses comprehensive data based on Sir Isaac Newton’s law of cooling.

Quick physics refresher: The law of cooling says that the rate of change of an object’s temperature is proportional to the temperature difference between the object and its surroundings. Whether or not that meal you pull out of your freezer defrosts in time for dinner depends on the temperature of your kitchen.

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With more information, companies can better determine product stability, packaging and design costs.

Developed by Sensitech® Inc., a worldwide leader in supply chain visibility, RCATP uses a risk-weighted evaluation of variable temperatures to quantify the risk of shipping a product when the temperature fluctuates during the course of shipment.

RCATP provides a more comprehensive analysis of time and temperature data than most ATPs, using three primary concepts: ideal temperature, heat and negative heat values and trip length. Most ATP methodologies do not show what happens on a cold day in a hot season or a hot day in a cold season, as they do not measure the full range of temperatures.

The RCATP methodology goes deeper, using a profile set to represent the hottest expected trip and the coolest expected trip. Packages can be tested on the full range of temperatures — both highs and lows —that can occur within one season or across multiple seasons.

With more information, companies can better determine product stability, packaging and design costs. They can measure the cost of maintaining quality and compare it to the projected costs associated with product quarantine or loss due to the negative effects of thermal exposure.

Real-life data: The UPS shipping network study

To test RCATP, UPS used Sensitech’s methodology to analyze its own shipping data. Over two years, UPS collected more than 270,000 data points from nearly 1.5 million UPS-tracked package miles on shipments from 12 points of origin and more than 200 destinations.

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UPS can help optimize the engineering and manufacturing of packaging for temperature-sensitive shipments.

The results were impressive: Employing RCATP to analyze data greatly reduced risk of damage to products by predicting the daily highs and lows of ambient temperatures.

The sample data allows UPS to provide customers with insights to help them optimize the engineering and manufacturing of packaging for temperature-sensitive shipments traveling through its network.

Although there is no way surefire way to forecast the conditions that temperature-sensitive shipments will encounter, a dataset from actual shipments can generate an ambient profile that optimizes for designing tertiary packaging.

Ambient temperature profiles like the Sensitech RCATP analysis is an effective — and, indeed, essential — way to enhance tertiary packaging solutions for temperature-sensitive shipments.

Real-world data can help determine the amount of risk and provide solutions on how to reduce it.

Susan Li was a Senior Cold Chain Logistics Strategist at UPS. She specialized in temperature-sensitive packaging logistics and managed the UPS Temperature True® Packaging program, providing cold-chain package consulting services to healthcare customers.

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David Magargee is the Global Programs Manager in Sensitech’s Professional Services Life Science team. The team is responsible for implementation and support of new and existing ColdStream Programs.

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