2015 Cold Chain Forum: logistics refinements multiply

October 14, 2015

While temperature-controlled components advance, service providers are identifying innovative refinements to basic shipping services

Each year, the annual Global Cold Chain Forum brings out a host of new product and service offerings, and this year’s meeting (Boston, Oct. 5-9) was no exception. But while the new offerings were prominently on display, a noticeable number of what might be called refinements could also be seen. Consider:

  • Pelican Biothermal (Plymouth, MN), which offers vacuum insulation panels for its Credo containers that include an inner phase-change material compartment (which provides the cooling), is now embedding a “smart indicator” in the panel. A simple yes/no display tells the worker assembling the container that the panel is at the appropriate temperature, speeding reliable packout.
  • The first generation of thermal covers were a thin sheet primarily for reducing airflow and reflecting sunlight. Now, TP3 Global (West Midlands, UK), which markets the Silverskin thermal pallet covers, is offering a version that incorporates a polymer which itself has been designed for low thermal emissivity. The polymer is formed into a type of bubble wrap sandwiched between reflective and/or protective outer layers, resulting in an engineered “blanket” that maintains controlled room-temperature (CRT)condition (generally, 15-25°C) for longer—48 hours or more, depending on ambient conditions.
  • Skycell AG (Zurich, Switzerland), which started out a few years ago with a preassembled pallet-size box that was used to ship from Europe to South America, has now expanded its network to North America, Africa, much of the Middle East and parts of Asia. The company touts its ability to convey pallets “door to door” without the need to open the container and repackage at an airport—a common limitation of other types of pallet containers. A Model 1500 is now available, essentially doubling capacity to 1.54 cu. m. (54.4 cu. ft.).
  • Envirotainer (Upplands Vasby, Sweden), which pioneered the active (powered) container business, is now offering an “availability guarantee” that its RKN e1 containers will be on hand for any European starting point, given eight days’ advance notice. The company, which generally leases its containers to users, has expanded its inventory of units in recent years; it is also offering a recently announced one-way lease from Europe to the US.
  • Sonoco ThermoSafe (Arlington Hts, IL), in highlighting its years-long relationship with Cardinal Health for temperature-controlled wholesaler-to-pharmacy shipments, promoted the value of its pallet shippers as a way for Cardinal to avoid two other less-attractive options: using refrigerated trucking for an entire delivery (which could include controlled room-temperature products), or employing trucks with moveable interior barriers to segregate refrigerated from CRT products. The pallet shippers earned sustainability points by reducing energy consumption in deliveries.

More than a few attendees at the meeting noted that the proliferation of vendors for temperature-controlled life sciences logistics is itself becoming a problem: more choices mean more complexity in selecting options. On the other hand, the continuing innovation makes for a more efficient logistics service.