Nearly every primary sector in the economy is undergoing a digital transformation and experiencing increased innovation due to computing and software technologies. These digital technologies allow companies to store and analyze large amounts of data, automate many business processes, and streamline team communication. Many industries play a central role in moving these innovative technologies forward, and pharmaceutical companies are looking for ways to incorporate digital and computing tech to gain a competitive advantage.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in pharmaceutical supply chains, which have had to evolve rapidly to transport newly developed pharmaceutical products to consumers. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent development of COVID-19 vaccines spurred the need for innovative supply chain solutions. These pharmacologically exotic products require particular storage conditions when distributed to healthcare facilities.
In particular, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine requires ultra-low temperature storage conditions to remain stable and effective for extended periods. Specifically, store the vaccine at a temperature range between -90 and -60 degrees Celsius to remain effective until its expiration date. That temperature is significantly lower than typical commercial freezers can reach.
As a result, Pfizer has had to establish new and innovative approaches to getting their vaccines to healthcare facilities and patients. For example, they have developed specialized shipping containers that use dry ice to keep storage temperatures in the -70 degree Celsius range. The containers also feature an interface that healthcare workers can use to confirm their receipt of vaccines.
Pfizer’s vaccine shipping containers also feature ambient temperature monitors that detect storage temperatures to make sure they are within safe ranges. These temperature monitors also record storage temperatures to comply with governmental regulations. Pfizer’s vaccine storage procedures are a great example of how pharmaceutical supply chains push forward advanced technologies.
Let’s explore some primary technologies that have come to the forefront due to increased supply chain constraints and demand.
Data Loggers and Temperature Monitors in the Supply Chain
The pharmaceutical and agricultural industries have long-needed methods to transport temperature-sensitive products over long distances to retailers and consumers. This crucial set of procedures is key to powering the modern global economy and getting essential products to consumers, known by supply chain professionals as cold chain storage. Luckily, modern IoT and cloud computing are helping to keep cold chain storage procedures efficient and reliable.
Data loggers are smal, electronic devices that monitor and record ambient environmental data such as temperature, differential pressure, and humidity. They are essential in keeping cold chain storage systems and warehouses stocked.
After measuring ambient temperatures, many data loggers store temperature data on their internal memory. This data can later be extracted and transferred to external computer systems for analysis. The data will often require submission in a particular style for submission to regulators.
In this sense, data loggers uphold quality assurance standards, retain talent, and allow companies to meet compliance requirements. For example, many regulators require temperature data to be submitted to determine if any storage facility exposed products to improper temperatures. Data loggers are just one example of a technology that supply chain demands and innovations have pushed forward.
Internet-Enabled Data Loggers for Cold Chain Management
Many pharmaceutical companies are also exploring next-generation data loggers that can connect to the internet and transmit data online. These data loggers represent a significant industry innovation and present several important advantages when dealing with future supply chain problems. Most importantly, these data loggers can provide supply chain managers with a more current and accurate picture of storage temperatures.
That means managers can immediately detect deviations in storage temperatures within specific storage units. Then, take action to repair faulty equipment and restore temperatures to optimal ranges, reducing product wastage and the chances of a product recall. That can help save pharmaceutical companies money in the long run and avoid potential lawsuits.
Internet-enabled data loggers can also help reduce labor costs since they don’t need to connect to computers at regular intervals manually. Instead, their access to the internet allows them to send data to remote IT systems, databases, and computers in real-time. Some pharmaceutical companies even use this real-time data to create temperature maps that reflect temperatures in different parts of storage facilities.
As with any new technology, pharmaceutical companies must address any vulnerabilities that internet-enabled data loggers present. For example, their connection to the internet can make these devices more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. As a result pharmaceutical companies must take proactive measures to ensure data security when looking toward future growth.
How Supply Chains are Spurring Cloud Computing Innovations
An essential benefit of internet-enabled data loggers is that they can send temperature data to remote data centers, making them compatible with modern cloud computing technologies. That’s important because many pharmaceutical companies rent IT and data storage infrastructure from cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Cloud. As a result, leveraging cloud storage can reduce costs for pharmaceutical companies by reducing the IT infrastructure they must buy, maintain, and continuously upgrade.
Pharma cloud computing also makes large datasets significantly more shareable. Rather than continuously downloading and uploading data, companies can use cloud storage infrastructure to store data online. The company can then give access to specific parties and devices to access that data.
As you can see, pharmaceutical supply chains are clearly on the leading edge of several different innovative technologies. In addition, supply chain and cold chain storage challenges have led to new tech in the data logger and cloud computing sphere. As the importance of reliable supply chains become more evident in the face of public health and economic challenges, the field is likely to yield even more innovative tech in the future.