Short term pain, long term gain: Achieving control and compliance with complete real-time visibility

Cold chain management, Pharmaceuticals   13 Feb 2019

Digital transformation for the pharmaceutical supply chain is not new. Supply chain leaders have been moving away from analog, limited visibility solutions that result in information gaps towards adopting real-time visibility that deliver a complete overview of the end-to-end supply chain.

The transition to real-time temperature monitoring solutions is no longer a question of if, but when. Enterprises that have already made the change are experiencing an influx of supply chain insights to which they previously did not have access. There is now the added challenge of knowing what to do with the data, including how to tackle the problems that previously were unknown.

How do supply chain leaders make the newly available data work for them? 

The future is now 

Businesses are already adopting real-time supply chain visibility solutions for their temperature-controlled supply chain. One of the challenges that comes with the availability of new data is how to effectively leverage it. The end goal is to focus only on what matters most. Too much data can hinder that effort.

With a passive solution, such as a traditional USB logger, there are often gaps in the data or missing information. You may know that a temperature excursion occurred, but may not be able to identify where it happened or the root cause. There is often an element of guesswork required.

If there is a temperature excursion, assumptions must be made as to when and where that excursion took place based on where it should have been at that time. This means that companies are often releasing products to market based on incomplete data and investigations involving assumptions. Of course that data is quite reliable and those assumptions are educated guesses, but there is always the chance that mistakes are made. 

Shed light on unknown issues

Real-time data alleviates the need for guesswork. It also means, however, that issues will arise that were previously unknown to the logistics and quality leaders within the organization. Once light is shed on those issues, you are required through regulations to address the issue. An unknown issue can be ignored, but as soon as the data reveals it, it becomes a problem to be solved. 

One example of this could be that issues with the processes or data provided from a receiver, supplier, or partner that was once trusted arise. In the past, pharmaceutical organizations have been reliant on the data and processes of those partners to comply with regulations and release products to market. With on-demand access to all cold chain data, that is no longer necessary. This new found freedom, however, does not come without its challenges. Once those issues surface, they must be dealt with, and depending on the gravity of the situation, it could cause a lot of headaches. 

In the long term, however, once those problems have been appropriately taken care of, the benefits are exponential. Revealing an unknown issue with the processes of a supplier and fixing it can result in the continual decrease of temperature excursions, mitigate risk, increase overall ROI, and protect the quality of your products. 

Not only that, but when issues do occur, there are no longer any disputes with receivers and partners about who is responsible. Not only is the proof in the data, but you no longer need to rely on the data from partners for compliance purposes. 

Make decisions based on facts and not feelings 

Once complete visibility over the supply chain is obtained, including over receivers, partners, and suppliers, it eventually also becomes easier to make informed decisions on spending based on hard facts. When it comes to choosing the right combination of packaging, containers, blankets, and services for shipments, knowing what will be most effective can be game-changing. While it might seem prudent to spend more money on packaging to ensure that products remain safe, continuous overspending can result in large amounts of wasted costs and resources over the long-term. 

In the 2019 LogiPharma EU report supply chain leaders were asked: 

“How often do you overspend or underspend on maintaining the necessary temperature for your shipments? (i.e., using too many or not enough packing, containers, blankets and services)” For 25-50% of shipments, 42% of experts said they overspend, whereas 22% say they underspend.

According to the data, professionals are prioritizing quality over costs and overspending more than they are underspending on many of their shipments. However, with access to critical data correlating packaging with its impact, businesses can attain cost savings through risk mitigation and continuous supply chain improvement, while continuously ensuring that products are reaching their destination and maintaining consistent quality. 

Zero tolerance for incomplete data

Another short-term issue that could arise from a solution dedicated to providing complete data and control is the fact that incomplete reports with incomplete data are no longer good enough. With access to new technologies and better data, a new culture of “zero tolerance” for incomplete data is formed. 

Along with the adoption of more advanced cold chain monitoring technologies, the culture and mindset surrounding data must change. Having shipments where a logger provides incomplete data is no longer acceptable, meaning that for high-value shipments it’s even more important to use multiple loggers to ensure that complete data is always provided. 

Shifting the mindset to one that demands complete data is difficult. Change is always difficult, but in the long term it protects your brand and products by ensuring quality and integrity. 

Complete data and data integrity is also important from a regulatory standpoint. According to the MHRA GXP Data integrity Guidance and Definitions; Revision 1: March 2019.  

“3.1 - The organization needs to take responsibility for the systems used and the data they generate. The organizational culture should ensure data is complete, consistent and accurate in all its forms, i.e. paper and electronic.”

Finding value in more data

After implementing a fully validated, real-time, end-to-end cold chain monitoring solution, supply chain leaders are faced with an influx of data. Having access to more data is a good thing, but only if organizations learn to harness that data to work for them. Now that the visibility is there, it is more important than ever to know how to analyse that data in order to continuously gain value from it. 

We have seen pharmaceutical companies shed light on three times the volume of excursions they saw before implementing a real-time solution. Just as with the problems that have now revealed themselves, this knowledge of more excursions occurring than you were aware of must be dealt with. When this starts to happen in the beginning without you expecting it, it can be a bit scary. 

This data, however, can be used to learn where and how those excursions are occurring and eventually you will see ways to tackle those problems. You will learn, for example, which routes are the best to use and which airports pose the greatest challenges. Not only that, but it can drastically reduce the time taken to perform summer/winter studies, risk analysis, and complete lane validation. Based on these new-found insights into your supply chain, it will become possible to implement day to day operational management changes that will result in long-term, sustainable improvements. 

About Controlant 

Controlant’s supply chain visibility solution is fully validated for CFR Part 11 / Annex 11. It combines wireless IoT data loggers with an intuitive cloud platform and a suite of managed and professional services. The Controlant hardware, software, and services are sold as a packaged subscription-based service. This means you always have calibrated loggers on hand, access to the user interface, and we manage your reverse logistics and our monitoring and response team is available to manage shipment alerts and respond to them 24/7, 365 days a year.

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