Cold Chain Technologies – Keeping a Cool Head
The last few years have highlighted the importance of maintaining a robust, sustainable cold chain for the pharmaceutical sector, and Cold Chain Technologies is instrumental in achieving that.
When we talk with Ranjeet Banerjee, CEO of Cold Chain Technologies, there is one word that keeps coming up. “Assurance”. More than the state-of-the-art technologies, products, innovation and services his company provides, Banerjee argues that “Assurance” is the most important thing Cold Chain Technologies can offer.
“When pharmaceutical companies are making drugs, biologics and vaccines, these have to be stored and transported within a certain band of temperatures and conditions,” Banerjee explains. “Where we come in is that we are global leaders in making sure these products are transported from the point of manufacture to distribution and then to the final point of use, the patient and recipient of the vaccine, always maintained in the right conditions.”
That assurance comes in the form of thermal assurance packaging and solutions to the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors. This means more than just temperature-controlled storage. It is about placing that in the context of the full supply chain.
“With the complexity of ensuring that hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of these movements of drugs and vaccines take place, we offer a very strong assurance that when it arrives the drug is safe,” Banerjee says. “There can be no compromise to the effectiveness or efficacy of the drug, and that’s where we do well. We design these solutions, and we test them very thoroughly.”
Cold Chain Technologies can deliver this because it runs the largest testing facility of its kind in the world. The firm manufactures its products under stringent conditions, ensuring the highest quality, accompanied by a digital platform that will track and trace each product through last-mile delivery.
It is essential work, and work that has only become more important over the last three years, highlighting areas where the industry as a whole needs to improve.
“If you look at vaccine transport, unfortunately, a lot of vaccines have historically been wasted and that’s a shame. This happens because of deviations in temperature,” Banerjee tells us. “More recently, Covid vaccinations have pushed capabilities to the limits.”
Building the Capacity We Need
These are challenges that Cold Chain Technologies has responded to quickly and effectively.
“We had to build capacity very quickly. It was a whole new need, but our company met it,” says Banerjee. “In September and October 2020, we rapidly constructed a massive new automated manufacturing facility in Tennessee. We applied all our capabilities, including technologies, testing, high-speed manufacturing, bringing up capacity quickly but with an extremely robust product.”
It is a challenge that has had to be addressed with more than sheer brute force capacity, however. Cold Chain Technologies has had to pay close attention to the surges, waves and trends of the pandemic.
“How do you predict demand?” Banerjee asks. “How do you make sure, in this environment of huge need, that you ensure consistency and very high quality?”
The answer was to apply a vision across the firm’s leadership.
“We formed a solid senior-level team that I was personally directly involved with. This was about more than just supplying solutions,” Banerjee recalls. “We were part of a major global initiative to combat Covid-19. As we set up the facility in Tennessee, we had solid support from distribution partners, and government officials.”
It was a response that necessitated nurturing a powerful pool of talent, within and outside the company.
“We need solid capabilities in thermal design and engineering and testing. We are constantly making sure we have the best people there,” Banerjee says. “We not only have very talented people in-house but connect with experts in academic institutions or external leaders in the field, the biggest and best talent in design and engineering.”
Materials are one area that has been a particular focus for the firm lately, acquiring talent and technology at the cutting edge of the field.
“We are constantly looking to bring in proprietary or general market materials (like phase change materials) that are very good in terms of thermal performance, insulation & sustainability benefits,” says Banerjee.
Beyond the materials field, Cold Chain Technologies is also making important strides with its digital platform.
“We’re helping improve tracking, tracing, and alerting along the last mile,” Banerjee points out. “We are not only alerting if something goes wrong but being predictive. If we expect a problem we can intervene proactively.”
Cold Chain Technologies’ primary purpose is to keep things in the right temperature range, so it is not surprising that climate change is a big concern for the company.
“It’s a very important area of focus for us. It’s not just another thing we do, we ask how to bring it front and centre to our products and solutions,” Banerjee insists.
Recently, the firm has been promoting sustainable solutions across three key areas. The first of these areas is in packaging, with a new line of reusable packaging transport solutions.
“Our reusable product line, EcoFlex, can be used over and over again. That has been very successful with customers because it saves on landfill and has huge sustainability benefits while being very high performance and effective from a cost of ownership perspective,” Banerjee says. “Over 90% of our products for Covid vaccines distributed in the US used that product. Imagine the amount of landfill avoided because of that. We have done a life cycle analysis to independently quantify the landfill and carbon dioxide savings.”
Reusable packaging is the ideal, but where that is not possible Cold Chain Technologies still offers a solution in the form of new cellulose-based technology to replace fossil fuel-based materials.
“It is plant-based, curbside recyclable and repulpable,” says Banerjee. Rather than the whole product being reusable, you use it once but can recycle the materials. It allows for a single-use but not landfill product.”
At the same time, Cold Chain Technologies’ digital platform can be a valuable tool for sustainability.
“Imagine you are transporting a vaccine from Texas to Narita, Japan in the summer. The type of solution you would need in the summer could be different from if you’re transporting it in mid-winter,” Banerjee says. “We have digital solutions to support our customers in optimising their packaging.”
One sure thing is that the Covid pandemic has shone a bright light on the importance of, and vulnerabilities in the pharmaceutical supply chain, and Cold Chain Technologies is working hard to learn from those lessons.
“This whole area of creating value in the last mile was always there, but it didn’t draw widespread attention until the Covid pandemic. We have billions of drugs, vaccines, and life-saving medicines, and the waste is high. Covid put a spotlight on the last mile,” Banerjee insists. “If you have a vaccine but can’t start vaccinations it doesn’t help. Covid emphasised that and our company is now working on how to move from just creating products to focusing on delivering assurance to our customers.”
There it is again. Assurance. Assurance provided through the design, selection, delivery, and monitoring of quality products, putting the patients’ safety above all else.
“The concept of transforming this industry to focus on assurance, bringing our products and related services together under one umbrella is what we’re focusing on.”
It is a monumental task, and not one Banerjee believes Cold Chain Technologies can do alone.
“We are always open for collaboration with other stakeholders in the space,” he tells us. “The need for this last mile assurance has become so great when it comes to life science products. We are already working along those lines forging partnerships with other Life Science organisations.”