Pallet Shipper Uses Active Heating

FedEx tested the AcuTemp RKN in a 15-day shipment traveling to Asia, and the cargo bin temperature fluctuated within one degree.




By David Vaczek
Senior Editor


Drug firms in the market for containers that will hold up to climate extremes have a new alternative in the AcuTemp RKN, which FedEx Custom Critical (Akron, OH) has added to its fleet of pallet shippers.

Jeff Sitzlar, manager of business development, FedEx Custom Critical, says the improved performance of the long-range shipper will influence pharma companies to reevaluate their transport container options. “With the addition of the AcuTemp RKN to our portfolio, I think we will be able to offer the pharma industry something they haven’t seen before,” Sitzlar says.

“Our testing has shown it performs the way it has been sold to perform, regardless of where it is shipped or how long it sits on the tarmac. The AcuTemp RKN really becomes a temperature-controlled warehouse,” he adds.

The first compressor-driven temperature-control container certified by FAA for use on domestic airlines, the RKN from AcuTemp Thermal Systems (Dayton, OH) features active heating technology in a pallet shipper.

Sitzlar says the unit provides more flexibility than standard dry ice–based active containers for shipping on routes with adverse climates, and it better accommodates transport chain delays. The pallet shipper uses 20-plus R-value insulation that helps in maintaining inside temperatures when containers are left sitting in harsh conditions.

Temperature extremes have to be avoided when handling dry ice–based shippers. “For a 2-to-8°C shipment in a standard unit-load device (ULD), it is imperative that you maintain ambient conditions, around room temperature, from the time you pick it up to the time you deliver it. Ambient temperatures should be 15° to 20° higher than the cargo temperature. If you can’t minimize or mitigate delays such as on the tarmac or at customs clearance, the product will get either too cold or too hot within hours, and you are going to have product loss,” he says.

“With the AcuTemp RKN, the outside temperature can fluctuate between –20° and 49°C, and the container maintains a flat line of 5°C, whether you are stuck on the tarmac in Mumbai in the summer or in Anchorage in February. That is what the pharma and biotech industries want,” he says.

FedEx Custom Critical tested the RKN in a 15-day shipment traveling to Asia. With the unit set at 5°C, the cargo bin temperature fluctuated within one degree, keeping the product temperature stable within one-half degree of the set point.

Sitzler says the 100-hour battery life covers almost all lanes door-to-door. But Custom Critical procedures call for ramp agents to plug it in for recharging when it is sitting at transfer points for more than an hour. The insulation’s performance more than doubles the time the container holds temperatures if the unit isn’t operating, versus that of a standard unit.

The AcuTemp RKN holds set temperatures from 2° to 25°C. Dry ice–based shippers from Envirotainer will continue supporting FedEx’s Temp-Assure services for the deep-frozen transport segment, as the firm’s t2 units hold temperatures at –20° to 20°C. For some shipping needs, Envirotainer’s RAP four-pallet-sized shipper will provide less dimensional weight and therefore be more cost-effective than using four one-pallet-sized AcuTemp RKNs.

Custom Critical has started with 20 RKNs in an exclusive use agreement, with AmSafe/AcuTemp capable of manufacturing 40 units a month, Sitzlar says.

“FedEx has the largest fleet of any cargo or commercial carrier in the world, with destination locations in more than 220 countries, the most of any cargo provider. We have the ability to mode-optimize a suite of temperature-control services across our operating companies, with customized solutions for challenging itineraries or customers requiring more custodial care and control.

“We have zero limitations as to where we can take the RKN in door-to-door global services,” Sitzlar says.

Handling the unit is potentially more cost-effective, since less human intervention is required for servicing. Customers in exclusive-use contracts pay only a one-way haul expense, with FedEx positioning, repositioning, and returning the ULD assets.

Sitzlar says the pallet container will offer a cost-effective option for large-volume shipments of smaller parcels. Companies shipping overseas with enough shipment volume can use the RKN and pay less per pound on the freight side than on the small parcel side. The unit can be used as a staging container for passive packouts for extending product life.

No votes yet