The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way the pharmaceutical supply chain is being deployed to ensure the quality of medical products. It is augmenting the efficiency and efficacy of the pharmaceutical transportation temperature supply chain as it shifts to digital monitoring. The developing technologies help prevent spoilage of vaccines and medicines during transit.
Suppliers no longer have to just store products in freezers and hope that nothing goes wrong in any of the links in the cold chain delivery system. New software solutions such as cloud technology, open architecture, and digital monitoring have made it possible for real-time tracking of products throughout the cold chain.
Real-time temperature and humidity monitoring are finally possible.
The result is a smarter cold chain, where monitoring devices can provide managers with live data about temperature and location, mitigating potential problems along the chain before they arise. With live data, managers can take action immediately to correct problems that might occur during shipment.
Cold chain logistics play an important part in the safe delivery of pharmaceutical goods. An efficient cold chain delivery system ensures the maintenance of the strictly predetermined temperature ranges in order to preserve the vaccines’ effectiveness. Previously, cold storage managers would have to be physically present inside a cold storage warehouse to monitor the products and assure smooth operations. Shipments, storage, and even last-mile deliveries can now be analyzed via mobile applications.
The cold chain is the lifeblood of the pharmaceuticals business. Recent findings predict a 12.7% yearly increase in cold-chain drug deliveries. If there are malfunctions or errors in the cold chain monitoring system, the pharmaceutical products become unusable and cause a financial loss to the industry.
The Future Supply Chain
If you’re wondering how IoT is going to bring all of this together, then the following explanation will help clarify the process. The process begins with installing an RFID chip into a pallet or a shipment crate, and then one in the shipment vehicle. A combined integrated device is added, so all of the data will to be loaded into the cloud.
From there, the device will track the pallet and can share its location via GPS. The device can also report other significant information such as traffic and weather conditions, as well as driver performance data.
Imagine a future where cold chains will have no waste, when medicines and vaccines are delivered on time to the patients who require them. That’s how IoT can change the world.
The IoT system is transforming what we know about how companies that offer delivery and fulfillment are running their businesses. Companies continue to shift to IoT supplied by outside providers to fulfill cold chain supply requirements. The technology has the ability to radically change what we know about the supply chain.
For example, in 2015, tech giant Cisco and the delivery company DHL got together and estimated that IoT technology can have a savings impact of more than $1.9 trillion on the supply chain. Proper monitoring is critical for drugs and medical supplies in the pharmaceutical industry because they are often limited in quantity and have a very limited amount of time to reach their destinations.
Unlike dry storage facilities, cold storage operators have more hardware and software programs to maintain. This is why cold chain monitoring technology is second on the desirable list of IoT investors.
How does IoT in the cold chain work?
By integrating IoT solutions into the cold chain, companies can connect to every step in the logistical process, cutting costs from having an outside party monitor the safety of the products.
With this technology, managers themselves can examine and adjust temperature settings in response to changes in local climate, damage to the packaging, unpredicted delays, and even human error.
Even in the rare event where temperature errors are happening but can’t be acted upon immediately, the insight provided by IoT technologies will let the supply-chain managers act on any situation before it turns worse. These abilities significantly reduce damage and waste while strengthening distributors’ relationships with their clients. The IoT is a gigantic amalgam of billions of linked sensors and devices, designed for the cold chain management (SCM).
The reason it works
According to an IHS Market analysis, the IoT market will grow from 15.4 billion devices in 2015 to 30.7 billion devices in 2020 and 125 billion in 2030. By applying IoT solutions into the cold chain, companies can connect instantly with every link in the logistical chain, producing cost-optimizing benefits for the company.
IoT solutions built into smart cold chains can improve profitability numbers.
When companies employ IoT upgrades to the cold chain, sensor technology will make locating, monitoring, and addressing errors almost instantaneous. Prior to IoT, those errors would only be visible after the shipment was received by a node or endpoint on the chain. Previously invisible problems now become visible with cold chain IoT, allowing informed, data-driven decisions to be made versus the historic find-and-investigate situations suffered by the industry.
IoT technologies will continue to improve, and companies using IoT technology in building a smart cold chain are increasing their investment in sensor technology to be more competitive, and to deliver drugs in the most efficient way possible. Companies that do not adopt this technology will lag behind and lose business.
IoT and Monitor Tracking
The main feature of IoT in the supply chain is asset tracking. While it’s nothing new, more advanced systems will drastically change the way we monitor medical goods while in transit. For example, the older systems used barcode scanners to track their inventory. The new method uses wireless and digital to more quickly track the products. New asset tracking systems produce more usable data, especially when integrated with other IoT technologies.
ERP and supply chain management systems have worked together well for a number of years. Currently, combining them with IoT technology, will automate the cold chain supply system to enhance humidity and temperature monitoring inside the warehouse.
Transparency of In-transit Goods
This technology will help enhance the visibility of in-transit goods. While the logistics systems and supply cold chain systems involve a lot of movement, the biggest concern is not knowing where the goods are and when they will arrive.
It is difficult to keep an accurate inventory when suppliers are unsure where their goods are, or what type of goods are present. With the IoT, there will more in-transit visibility through the use of both GPS and RFID technology.
These technologies are going to produce a ton of information that will provide suppliers with identity, location, and other requested tracking information. This is where the technologies have a huge impact on the supply chain. By tapping into these technologies, companies are going to have full visibility of their products, starting from the manufacturer going all the way to the retailer. Shippers never have to worry about where the products are.
This data will not only allow companies to automate their shipping and know exactly the location of the products, but they will be able to monitor various temperature and humidity parameters in the delivery of goods while they are in transit.
Also, the company will achieve a better perspective of how the overall logistics management is working. Analyzing the data from the different deliveries and shipments, you’ll establish patterns among the drivers and shipments. As a result, increasing the success of deliveries to maximize profits and time management.
The Advantage of Data Gathering
Accurate data can further improve the success of delivery even before products leave the loading bay. For example, if there is a traffic jam on the intended route, then the delivery can be rerouted to deliver the goods more quickly. Not having this technology can leave shippers powerless in difficult traffic situations that may result in more delays
What Cold Chain Providers need to do
- The different scenarios mentioned above can be applied to many different factors in the cold chain supply that the IoT can provide deep data and intelligence to aid the cold chain providers in applying appropriate amelioration measures including:
- Preventing asset loss by applying the proper action to a problem before it worsens.
- Saving fuel by finding the shortest routes and avoiding traffic jams.
- Monitoring and reporting so medical products stay in the proper temperature and humidity ranges.
- Maintaining accurate inventory records to avoid overstocking and shortages.
How IoT components are integral to modern cold chains
- Cold chain delivery safety
Vaccine spoilage and wastage have always been thorny issues in the logistics agenda. To avoid these incidents, network-connected temperature and humidity sensors are installed throughout the warehouse. These provide first-hand monitoring of climate conditions for biological products and set off alerts when acceptable limits are exceeded. Managers will then inspect the alerted areas and correct or replace malfunctioning equipment. Spoiled medicinal products will be removed from the supply chain before they reach end-users. Shippers can also identify the origin of contamination and eliminate problems with the help of IoT devices.
- Cold chain flexibility
Tight integration is essential in cold chain logistics since tight controls ensure that temperatures are always within the prescribed limits. With that in mind, IoT sensors and applications are installed in vehicles and at shipping facilities to create a logical tracking web throughout the cold chain.
Compatibility with multiple communications protocols (e.g., Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, etc.) give them external control for a wide range of environments and requirements. For instance, a logistics provider can use a Near-Field Communications reader to remotely read the shipments’ temperatures as they transfer from one site to another. Other smart gadgets can be used for tracking across various delivery stations, while other technologies may be more acceptable for facility monitoring.
Precision work with IoT technology
Human error is often the original cause of cold chain reliability issues.
Common issues include:
- Improper storage of items in cold rooms, which can compromise some pharmaceutical drugs through incorrect temperature settings.
- Setting out passive cooling temperature-sensitive containers in the morning, but delaying shipping until the late hours of the evening.
- Too much content in the package, which could cause spillover and expose the medicine to the external environment.
- The opposite effect of overpacking in passive coolers is leaving the ice gel packs too much room in the container. When they melt in transit, it could result in inadequate cooling and could allow the products to move around in the container, resulting in physical damage.
- The IoT system can give accurate, real time, automated tracking to avoid these issues and safeguard shipping parameters. Data collected from embedded sensors can provide perspective on which shipments were best maintained across the cold chain. This helps ensure that their setups are repeated in future shipments.
An AI Ecosystem for the Cold Chain System
With an AI IoT ecosystem for cold chain supply systems, analysis, location, and responsive actions can help prevent and correct many problems. For example, any deviations of temperature settings can send alert notifications to the parties concerned.
Monitoring sensors can distinguish between transiting and being stolen. They can even initiate a “lockdown” mode to prevent theft. Pharmaceutical products can reach their destination undisturbed in even hazardous conditions. If the goods are stored in a warehouse, managers can follow the AI’s recommendations on potential refrigeration problems or decide to transfer the goods to secure them.
The benefits of having an IoT cold chain monitoring system
- A cost-saving wireless solution and mobile App could track in real-time the transportation of medical goods for the pharmaceutical company to follow.
- Alerts and temperature logs can be reviewed to ensure they are at prescribed settings. The settings can be adjusted accordingly by using the application. They can also be uploaded to the cloud automatically, right up to the point of delivery.
- By utilizing hardware solutions such as RFID readers in smartphones, data collection and monitoring along the cold chain has improved reliability.
- IoT is radically changing the way we monitor valuable medical products, giving unlimited opportunities for industries to overtake their competitors via linking sensors, advanced analytics, embedded intelligence, and human expertise.
- It would be prudent for the logistics industry to utilize this technology to their advantage. This will be the prominent technology used in the future cold chain and transportation industry. It will make the company tracking system smarter and faster to react to any threat concerning the integrity of the products.
- As aspects of the technology are still improving their implementation, it will take a while for pharmaceutical companies to fully embrace this technology.
- It is inevitable that the IoT will shake up things in cold chain delivery systems. Everything will be interconnected, from the warehouses to the delivery systems, to continually monitor the integrity of the goods.