One of the great aspects of the modern world is that technology underpins everything, yet we don’t need to know anything about the technology. The majority of us would not know how the chips in our smartphones work, but we know how to make calls, take photos or browse the internet. What we usually look for is features that enable us to do the things we need in our daily lives – whether it is for taking photos, sending emails, internet usage or other capability; and then we look at features like battery life and size to see if it suits our needs.
Using this analogy, the main concern of the cold chain logistics industry is ensuring reliability, accuracy, and security. They need assurance that the products being shipped or stored, whether in the pharmaceutical or food industry, are maintained under the right conditions for them to be safe to use or consume when they reach the customer (see ‘How cold chain monitoring assures product safety’).
For the logistics manager, he needs to know where the products or shipments are and if there have been any temperature digressions so that immediate corrective action can be taken. For the quality manager, he needs to be re-assured that product quality has been maintained and have proof of product integrity. For the senior management team, whether they are CEO or CFO, they need to know the value of the shipment lost if there has been a digression, whether it is an isolated case, and where in their network of warehouses or the transport fleet the digression is occurring.
Ultimately, at the various levels of management in the cold chain logistics industry, they are looking for the temperature monitoring solution as a means to prove quality to their customer, and in turn enhance their relationships with customers and therefore enhance business.
What are the key factors to look for in a cold chain monitoring solution?
Many technologies are now available to monitor these various parameters of temperature, humidity, energy, location, and whether a door is open or closed. There are RFID trackers, track and trace, cold chain monitoring, temperature monitoring, wireless monitoring and many more types of technology solution being offered to the cold chain logistics industry.
So how do you choose? Here are some of the obvious factors you should look for:
- What parameters does it measure? Is it just temperature, or will it tell me about the humidity or whether a door is open or closed?
- Can the sensors used in the system be used just in the entire logistics network – in the controlled room temperature warehouses, and in the fleet of trucks? Will this give me complete visibility in the entire cold chain, or are there gaps?
- How does it send the information – is it via local wireless network, or a globally connected mobile network? If it uses mobile (GPRS or UMTS networks), then there would be global coverage.
- Will it send me a real-time alert if the temperature rises above or falls below pre-defined temperature values that define the integrity of the product?
- Can the system also use data from my legacy products – such as existing barcode scanners, RFID tags, ERP systems, so that I can get a complete picture of my cold chain?
- Can the system overlay location data so that I can see the exact status of all my fleet and warehouses in one geographic map?
- How is the data stored and can I have access to it at any time? If the data is continuously monitored and sent to the cloud for storage, then you know you will have access to it in case you need to provide full reporting history to your customers.
- Do I need to provide any extra training to my operators? Ideally the system should provide automatic monitoring and data recording and reporting, removing the task of measuring from your operations staff, leaving them to get on with their main job function.
- Does the recording and reporting of data fit into a GDP validated environment? This is important for GDP/GAMP regulatory requirements.
Solutions that address all of these factors can help to provide complete visibility in the cold chain and proof of product quality and integrity. Solutions that can address fundamental questions such as ‘what is the status of my shipment?’ and ‘where is my shipment?’, and help provide a rapid response upon failure by automated alerts (such as SMS, email, phone, as provided by Dyzle’s cold chain monitoring solution) are very much likely to meet your needs, if you are concerned about total product quality and integrity. The ability to see the whole system in one view on a map with all necessary details adds to the value of that system.
Automated registration and reporting, for proof of compliance with GDP, GAMP and HACCP requirements should then take away the additional task of manual recording and reporting that is often used by logistics and quality managers.
A hardware and software platform solution like Dyzle’s can provide the visualization of both fixed and mobile locations in a cold chain, and store the data in a centralized database in the cloud. This database can be enriched with cold chain data from other parties and sources; with the combined data, it is possible to create visibility and control of products throughout the cold chain.
An additional benefit of this temperature monitoring is that energy consumption can also be reduced or optimized. In a controlled room temperature environment, if the cooling equipment is observed to be running colder than necessary, this can be corrected to reduce the energy usage – a one degree Celsius increase can lead to a four percent reduction in energy consumption.
A final piece of the factors to look for is validation. A monitoring solution that fits seamlessly in a GDP validated environment (meaning the computerized system is validated), means that:
- user requirements have been defined
- risk assessment has been performed
- system impact has been determined
Such validation is an integral part of Dyzle’s solution. The importance of this is that there is no need for additional training of internal resources, and no additional investment is required in validation expertise. When product integrity is becoming increasingly essential, this capability in a cold chain monitoring solution is vital.
In fact, GDP compliance or GAMP takes care of most of the factors mentioned above for pharmaceutical companies. GAMP is a methodology that has asked all these questions according to the guidelines/standards for the pharmaceutical industry. Technology solutions like the Dyzle hardware/software cloud-based platform ensure that by working in a validated environment, all these requirements are fulfilled – which means that logistics industry managers responsible for the cold chain do not need to know anything about the detail of the monitoring solutions, since the solution has already done all of that homework, in terms of risk analysis, IQ, OQ, etc.
In this article, we’ve looked at the key factors that one should consider when looking to implement a complete cold chain monitoring solution. As illustrated, it is not necessary to know about the technology platform – but it is important to know that they can do certain things, like measure data automatically, tell you the data in the right format, and help you provide proof of product integrity and compliance.