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Worldwide pharmaceutical logistics during the coronavirus pandemic

| Logistics

Marburg logistics service provider helps to optimise logistics between the conflicting priorities of safety and cost.

Much has been done in the world of pharmaceutical logistics since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Border closures, Brexit or the recently blocked sea route in the Suez Canal are constantly throwing up new challenges for logistics providers. Nonetheless, global supply chains need to remain stable, secure and cost-effective. 

For some time, declining cargo space capacity has made it difficult to work with actively cooled air freight containers. They are needed to safely transport temperature-sensitive and high-grade ready-to-use drugs safely in aircraft. The shortage of capacity and return difficulties has often made this safe packaging solution unattractive in terms of price for some time – at least for large-volume shipments. 

As a result, various changes were made to shipping at short notice at Pharmaserv Logistics. So-called passive boxes were increasingly used instead of actively cooled containers. These specially insulated shipping boxes are equipped with pre-conditioned, that is, pre-cooled, cooling elements, which allows the designated transport temperature to be kept constant in the box. The advantage of this is that the packaging solution no longer needs to be returned. By contrast, there is usually more work involved in repacking the goods to the respective box volume, and packaging the shipping solution per se. But the extra work generally pays off.

The pharmaceutical logistics service provider which specialises in biologics handled a major order in recent weeks for one of its long-standing customers: the shipment of 80 pallets of ready-to-use drugs at 2 ° to 8 °C to Baghdad in Iraq. The challenge lay in the large packaging volume, the large number of preconditioning cooling elements and the short time required for packaging to meet the deadline at Cologne/Bonn departure airport to ensure that the thermo boxes had as long a service life as possible.

One advantage at the handling phase was the fact that the shipping customer is a so-called “Known shipper” whose goods are considered “secure” from the point of view of air cargo security. As a “regulated agent”, Pharmaserv Logistics is able to uphold this security status and so the goods did not need to be X-rayed in advance. But even this would not have been a problem, as the company has an appropriate X-ray system available in its qualified pharmaceutical warehouse. This machine is even capable of X-raying freight at 2 ° to 8 °C in under 2 minutes in compliance with GMP conditions. Another advantage was the fact that, as a wholesaler, Pharmaserv Logistics has a wide range of various manufacturers’ different passive boxes in stock and thus available at all times for its packaging work.

During an extra weekend shift, the specially trained employees repacked the goods in the Gross-Gerau Air Freight Hub to produce 40 Euro pallets and 40 industrial pallets. They were then packed in 40 so-called Half-PAG shippers. This large-volume passive packaging solution holds 1 Euro pallet and 1 industrial pallet and ensures a temperature of 2 ° to 8 °C.

As the departure airport had capacity bottlenecks, this necessitated a detour via Frankfurt Airport. Here, the 40 packages were packed onto another 20 Unit Load Devices, so-called PMCs. They were then transported to the departure airport in accordance with GDP practices. From here, the goods were then transported safely and cost-effectively to Iraq.

In addition, it is worth noting that the “Experts for biologics” had previously supported their customers in producing the required “lane validation”, that is to say a special risk analysis of the planned shipping route. This is mandatory in the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that medicines always arrive safely at the recipient. The customer was so enthusiastic about the seamless handling of the order that he then thanked the team in writing.

“When our customer praises our team at the end of the day, it makes me proud and shows that we are on the right track with the range of services we provide,” concludes Martin Egger, who sits on the Board of Directors.

Worldwide pharmaceutical logistics during the coronavirus pandemic


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