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Redundancy, asset control, power stability and sustainability in cold chain Listen with ReadSpeaker

Redundancy, asset control, power stability and sustainability in cold chain

According to latest research by Inbound Logistics, approximately 80 percent of the top biopharma products that have been introduced in the US over the last three years are temperature sensitive.

Protecting temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals is vital to the function and effectiveness of the drug, hence the need to develop sophisticated cold chain capabilities is ever-increasing.

Interacting with both clients and customers, DKSH treats cold chain products with the highest care. This article provides a rare view behind the scenes by providing more background to our unique “Total Quality Management for Cold Chain” building blocks: A-SMART and 5C methods (as introduced in the earlier articles).

Choice of packaging, transportation method, storage method, and temperature monitoring are important "hardware" decisions in cold chain management. However, "soft skills" such as properly organizing, orchestrating, monitoring, and having the right attitude (integrity) are at least as important. For example, a packaging is only effective if used in the "right" (process) setting and by the "right" (trained) hands. The two building blocks support exactly that.

A-SMART stands for Assimilated Strategic Method for Asset Review and Targeting, while 5Cs stands for Condition, Control, Competence, Contingency, Culture. Together, these methods combine strategic, tactical and operational interaction. Some key elements are:

In our cold room designs, we identify redundancy, meaning alternate cooling units operating, back-up evaporators, etc. We also look at possibilities to segregate areas supporting the creation of backup options. This means for example that we consciously choose two times 45-square meter cold room over one-time 90-square meter cold room. By doing so, we create backup options. In the context of the risk we manage with/for our clients and customers, this is a good example of an investment we do across our Asian network.

Asset control is elementary. Besides scheduled independent third-party maintenance, where reports are cross-verified on a group level, we have a "preventive predictive maintenance" (PPM) schedule in place. Part of this PPM program is scanning our equipment with thermal imagers. These pro-active measures help to timely identify possible upcoming issues. This is supported by having critical (sensitive) spare parts available, as well as executing unannounced test scenarios with our vendors throughout the year. Related analysis feeds into the A-SMART method for strategic decision making.

Stable electricity supply is not a given in many countries and can be a real challenge in some markets. We therefore have generators in place with an auto cut-over functionality and alarm notification. Given the criticality and sensitivity of the products, we keep at least 24 hours of fuel on site and have agreements with fuel vendors to supply in case of emergency. This supply is also tested frequently. Throughout Asia our customized sensor based IoT approach for alarms is working very well. We also operate with dual alarm systems comprising both 24/7 voice calls as well as SMS and e-mail alerts. Our persons in charge are always on the watch for situations and are ready to react immediately.

Besides meeting industry requirements, another fundamental choice we made is to work with best-fit solutions. This relates also to environmental impact reduction. Where practical, we opt for reusable packaging for example. For cold chain transport, we apply various advanced packaging solutions such as vacuum insulated panels boxes, polypropylene boxes, polystyrene boxes, air-conditioned vans, air-conditioned trucks, etc.

The TQM for Cold Chain program connects operations on a local and regional level and allows us to be both rigid and flexible depending on the situation. Findings in operations move through the organization quickly and can be adopted in other markets. This flexibility allows also for creating localized solutions. At the same time, management and operations have a clear understanding of what is expected at any given time. This allows for skills development, consistency, transparency and task ownership.

TQM for Cold Chain is a good example of an effective operational excellence program with clear companywide engagement and collaboration around continuous improvement. We all take great pride in ensuring our clients high-quality products reach patients in good condition.


Tim Broekhuizen

About the author

Tim Broekhuizen is Regional Manager, Center of Excellence, Supply Chain Management at DKSH. Before this, he was Country Head of Supply Chain Myanmar. Born and educated in The Netherlands, Tim holds a Master’s degree in Operations and Supply Chain Excellence and a Bachelor's degree in Logistics. He has more than 20 years of leadership experience in upstream and downstream perishable supply chains in developed and emerging markets.

Read more here.