While the topic of supply chain visibility has gained top attention only in the last years, ensuring the stability of pharmaceutical products with temperature management has already been relevant for quite some decades. As visibility and temperature management seek for the same goal, namely insights into and control over the supply chain, the consequent questions are: What would an integration of temperature management within supply chain visibility look like and how does one benefit from the other?

We illuminate our idea for a superordinate control tower in three steps (as in the Golden Circle by Simon Sinek):

WHY – Why should temperature management be integrated with supply chain visibility? What benefits can be generated from this?

HOW – How can temperature management be integrated with supply chain visibility? Which processes, tools and stakeholders can support this?

WHAT – What needs to be done to integrate temperature management with supply chain visibility? Which steps need to be taken?

In this first part of our blog post series, we will take a look at the WHY.

Why integrate temperature management with supply chain visibility

What differentiates temperature management fundamentally from many other pharmaceutical monitoring requirements is the integral view on the complete history of a batch. A single deviation from the specified temperature interval does not need to be accounted for. If the deviation is not too large and does not last too long, it may be tolerable.

With loggers still being the proven source of temperature data and as for some stages of the supply chain even estimates are accepted, the management of temperature is mainly reactive. Quality releases depend on the logger data, often with a high manual effort for collecting all available evidence. In most cases, the availability of reliable data in real-time will make decisions about quality releases better and faster at the same time. This will save time now spend on collecting necessary information.

So, quality is only a reactive analysis with some delay. Quite often this results in delays of further transport or has the risk of continuing efforts on products already being off spec.

To counteract the described shortcomings, an intelligent control tower should monitor, manage, and control decisions and execution across functions and across companies to optimize the entire network. As a main driver of a control tower, supply chain visibility (SCV) fosters these features and thereby forms the base for an improved temperature management.

As an example, using real-time data from IoT devices as visibility driver in a control tower may change temperature management in many ways.

Four benefits for product quality and supply chain management

Temperature management with a control tower brings various benefits for managing the supply chain:

Reliable information

Firstly, quality assurance becomes much more efficient: data are automatically collected and connected to one complete record for each unit transported, whether it is a complete batch or a smaller container for transport. Reports and alerts may indicate the status and provide quick access to reliable information for release decisions.

Full transport history at any time

Secondly, the decisions will easily provide an understanding of the full transport history. Previously, with a larger deviation on one stage of the supply chain exceeding a limit specified for this stage, the analysis would need to be extended to understand the full set of temperature recordings. With online data, the full analysis is accessible immediately and at every point in time.

Higher control

Further, with the data being available immediately, it would be even possible to base further decisions on them during ongoing operations. If products in a container have already been exposed to large deviations, it may be possible to ensure a better control for the succeeding stages of the supply chain by changing the mode of transport to truck or the mode of cooling to an active one.

Enabling preventive action

And finally, there would be the potential of applying even more control with preventive action. Real-time data will immediately show a tendency to a potential deviation and automatic alerting would raise attention of a supply chain coordinator to needed intervention. By early information and the additional transparency, options to react can be evaluated better. Whether a cooling device needs to be repaired or exchanged, or a truck needs to be redirected to a warehouse providing cooled storage, the action may help to prevent larger deviations and save a valuable product that is quite often also urgently needed.

Quality through Efficiency

If you do not include quality aspects into all parts of your supply chain, quality assurance will remain inefficient, and moreover, you have to put effort into trying to compensate previous negative impact on product quality and value loss.

The outlined benefits strongly refer to quality and efficiency in temperature management processes, which should not be surprising as temperature management is a topic mostly applied to sensitive goods with hard restrictions and distinct GxP processes.

So, the question of WHY temperature management should be integrated with supply chain visibility could be answered as following: Efficiency in the supply chain through visibility leads to a higher quality in your temperature management. A high-quality temperature management will increase the quality of your supply chain.

To find out more about HOW to integrate temperature management with supply chain visibility, read our second blog article.

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