UPS Cold-Chain Service

New refrigeration capacity and support networks keep transport in check.

By David Vaczek
Senior Editor

Responding to growing demand for compliant and cost-effective global shipping of healthcare products, UPS has launched UPS Temperature True for managing domestic and international freight consignments. The service will provide door-to-door shipping in a validated environment, as pharmaceutical companies extend shipments globally to reach new markets, says Bill Hook, vice president of global strategy, UPS Healthcare Logistics.

For supporting the secure and on-time delivery of temperature-sensitive freight in the new program, UPS is building out refrigeration capacity at airport storage facilities, and its service network for monitoring, receiving, and repackaging containers.

“We piloted Temperature True with a few clients to make sure we can provide the reliability they are looking for both from a compliance standpoint and a delivery standpoint,” says Hook. “Our view is that this is a service on which we want to be perfect. The program has since been rapidly adopted.”

Shipments are monitored from a dedicated call center. If key milestones are in jeopardy of being missed, remedial action is initiated.

Temperature True leverages UPS’s integrated carrier network which “takes handoff steps out of the process,” says Hook.

Shipments involving two or three partners, including a freight forwarder, will encounter multiple handoffs and might be staged or refrigerated at airports or with distributors multiple times, Hook notes.

“Our shipments are moving more frequently so we are minimizing delays, reducing cycle times, and ultimately improving on-time delivery,” he says.

“We broker the shipments so the freight doesn’t stop, leveraging our air fleet whenever possible, regardless of the lane. In the event of an extended delay, we might move the freight via trailer to a qualified commercial partner’s aircraft. If a plane has to be diverted due to inclement weather, we can schedule a UPS refrigerated trailer to meet the plane at the rerouted destination and move the freight by ground to its intended goal.

“We have cut two days out of transit times in most cases for vaccine shipments where we are actually providing a next-day service, which has allowed customers to ship on more days of the week,” Hook says.

Data on the transit environment are collected on active and passive packouts after the shipment is completed and sent electronically to the customer.

UPS, says Hook, is studying the in-flight environment of its “brown tail” fleet.

“Bio-pharma companies tell us that temperature mapping is an increasingly critical component of their supply chain planning,” he says. “We recently helped a bio-pharma company shipping from an air hub in Europe monitor cargo and ambient temperatures. For this time-definite passive packout, we mapped the environment encountered in the truck, on the tarmac, in the aircraft, and at final delivery, so they can demonstrate to regulatory bodies they understand the ambient temperature encountered.”

In June, UPS launched the UPS Proactive Response contract service for safe delivery of high-value small parcels such as vaccines and clinical specimens. Targeted primarily to the clinical trials market, the round-the-clock service uses a monitoring engine that automatically compares data on where a package is against where it should be.

Packaging that isn’t going to meet its delivery window is flagged, and a call center is alerted to intercede, following customers’ instructions. The service is now available in 72 countries.

“The Proactive Response software anticipates when scans should be made. We can anticipate a problem, intervene, and take corrective action long before the customer would realize the shipment is going to be late,” Hook says.

“In the air freight business, we have not had these visibility tools in place in all parts of the world,” Hook adds.

“With the globalization of healthcare, the opening of manufacturing facilities in Eastern Europe and Asia, and the global expansion of clinical trials, the challenge is to expand our tracking technology for full visibility in the lanes needed by each manufacturer,” he adds.

Temperature True currently covers UPS’s major gateways in the United States, UK, Europe, Asia, and Puerto Rico. “We are getting requests for some secondary markets in Asia and South America. [For example], several of our large pharma customers want to move into Argentina, Chile, and Brazil. For these markets, we have to establish cold storage backup facilities, make sure we have healthcare-compliant refrigerated trucks in place, and implement SOPs and local training,” Hook says.

The logistics provider is expanding its healthcare footprint with new facilities in Roermond, The Netherlands, and in Puerto Rico, set to open this year.

A 150,000-sq-ft distribution facility in Puerto Rico will support UPS’s supply-chain network for sensitive drug and biotech products. In Roermond, a 215,000-sq-ft healthcare facility will feature customized inventory management and compliance tools, and temperature sensitive storage and quality assurance services, supporting the freight and express package networks.

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