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Four key factors for managing healthcare cold chains in Asia Listen with ReadSpeaker

Four key factors for managing healthcare cold chains in Asia

Healthcare provision is entering a new era in Asia’s fast-paced and high-growth emerging markets. Rising consumer affluence and surging demand for a broad range of medicines are defining this new reality.

Changing demographic structures and robust regulatory frameworks add extra complexity. This combination of factors is driving innovation to meet unique challenges across the medical supply chain.

Having worked in supply chain management across various continents, I have followed the evolution of this new paradigm. Where modern medical treatments are concerned, small temperature margins are vital and having a structured, yet flexible cold chain strategy is more important than ever before.

While many similarities exist between cold chains in the US, Europe, Middle East and Asia, I believe there are four key considerations for developing a cold chain strategy specific to individual Asian markets:

Asia’s healthcare systems vary considerably in scale, scope and technical and operational maturity. Polarized population densities also impact the provision of adequate health services. In addition, two important factors are evident across the region:


  • Specialty pharmaceutical and biologics products continue to evolve, as such seamless temperature control is critical
  • Patients are increasingly discerning and demanding regarding their personal healthcare and treatments; they are highly aware of potential risks

In combination, these elements are driving innovations in healthcare cold chain technologies and raising service standards across multiple treatment channels.

The range of logistical and infrastructural challenges across emerging Asian markets includes heavy traffic in large cities, various links to non-urban locations, inconsistencies across islands in archipelago nations and mountainous regions create additional complexities.


For cold chain supply chain management, inconsistent electrical and power stability in different Asian nations can impact temperature control. Moreover, the condition and maintenance standards of key assets, such as cold rooms, trucks and boxes, are adversely affected by numerous factors.


Supply chain management providers such as DKSH have designed pragmatic logistical solutions to meet evolving challenges. In Myanmar, for example, DKSH has established its own fleet of temperature-controlled road vehicles to safely deliver products to the northern, central and delta regions of the country. This investment ensures that all deliveries are completed in compliance with international standards and has helped to improve delivery lead times by up to 50 percent.

Asia is a vast continent comprising numerous geographies and climates; ranging from the year-round tropical heat and humidity of South East Asia to the long, extremely cold winters in North Asia. Exacerbating these climatic concerns for cold chain managers are natural phenomena, such as cyclones, typhoons, wet season floods and earthquakes. Mitigating these effects requires strategic foresight.


In 2011, widespread flooding across Thailand restricted the ability of pharmacies, clinics and hospitals to provide lifesaving medicines. As an example, DKSH’s distribution centers were opened 24-hours. The team utilized temporary cross-docks, a fleet of large wheel trucks and riverboats in flooded areas that were unreachable by smaller vehicles.


Cold chain boxes capable of retaining their temperature for twice the normal duration were deployed. These measures enabled DKSH to securely ship urgently needed medicines to patients in highly challenging conditions. Following the incidence, DKSH has invested in state-of-the-art flood protection barriers at its distribution centers as an additional safety measure.

Cold chain in healthcare necessitates seamless end-to-end solutions that anticipate and moderate unique risks and challenges. Ensuring a uniformity of quality control, monitoring and performance measurement locally and regionally means confronting entrenched challenges such as audio-visual alarms or backup generators and spare parts availability, amongst many others that we will discuss in future articles.

Watch the video here

Do share your thoughts with me on how cold chain storage and distribution effects your business.

Dan Culverhouse

About the Author

Dan Culverhouse is currently Head of Supply Chain at DKSH. Dan has more than 25 years’ experience in Supply Chain Management including over 16 years working in international markets. Read more here.