Optimizing Supply Chain to Address Cold Chain Challenges in the Pharmaceutical Industry

The incredibly growing complexity of the pharmaceutical supply chain has forced the industry to rethink the way of managing cold chain logistics. Cold chain logistics has become a complex process over the last few years demanding fundamental transformation and a structural revamping to put cold chain logistics into perspective.

Managing the transportation of temperature-controlled products continues to grow increasingly. According to Pharmaceutical Commerce’s annual BioPharma Cold Chain Sourcebook- in 2021 the pharma cold chain logistics is predicted to be $16.6 billion industry. This includes the transport of temperature-controlled goods along a supply chain through refrigerated and thermal packaging procedures and the logistics planning to safeguard the integrity of the shipments.

Understanding the pain points

In the healthcare industry, the pharmaceutical cold chain is a key part of the supply chain and cold chain logistics services help the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry maintain a continuous supply of drugs from distributors and suppliers in various locations.

Nowadays more high-value active ingredients are being used in drug manufacturing that have a short shelf life and come with strict temperature requirements. Hence the need for monitoring and temperature control through the complete supply chain has grown manifolds. Even the drugs that are typically safe at room temperature may need practices to avoid the spikes that come with related transportation.

Logistics providers are now receiving increasing requests for Controlled Room Temperatures which involves the usage of refrigerants, insulated containers, temperature-monitoring electronics, and thermal blanketing. With products being handled multiple times from suppliers to end-user, there is a requirement of an assemblage of temperature controls to maintain quality, coordinated actions, and monitoring tools along the entire supply chain.

The biggest challenge with cold chain logistics is to maintain a certain temperature range throughout the delivery cycle. Multiple variables impact the length of time a product’s temperature is considered controlled. Temperature-controlled transportation requires specialized equipment and trucks, and skilled drivers.

Monitoring the temperature is another huge challenge and without that in place pharmaceutical manufacturers lose control over their goods as it moves up in the supply chain.

Besides that, increasing pharmaceutical mandates and globalization is causing many pharma manufacturers to implement more strict protocols to stay ahead of the regulation. For instance, in European Union, almost 80% of pharma products need temperature-controlled transportation.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the cold chain’s role in the pharmaceutical industry. With temperature-controlled vaccines for the virus, there is a need for optimizing the entire supply chain for the industry.

Traceability across the supply network

To ensure product quality there is a need for a system to track unit-level items, identifying issues, finding an optimized solution, communicate an action plan, and compose a response. Supply networks function based on the trading relationships between manufacturers, producers, retailers, suppliers, distributors, and consumers. Full traceability across the supply network that includes visibility across final products, raw materials, and intermediaries across trading partners and to the end consumer.


The companies that outsource logistics, their carriers and providers become an important part of the process with a high level of risk. To avoid the risk, recordable devices such as RFID tags and sensor technologies can enable companies to manage and monitor supply chains.

Digitization and Visibility

Most of the pharma companies are now working towards digitization. The main objective is visibility on demand into each business process right from production to sale. By digitizing the entire supply chain process pharma companies get better control and coordination and they can base their decisions on reliable data and information. The use of technologies such as IoT to collect real-time and relevant data and cloud platforms- to manage the data and make sense of it for your business needs and supply chain.

The demand for visibility across the supply chain due to increase in globalization that includes temperature monitoring and location irrespective of where in the world product is moving, is driving the technology market to create solutions to deliver and track data in real–time.

Final Word

To meet the varying demands and not to mess up an already complex process, the cold chain logistics in the pharmaceutical industry needs to be based on three points- service, agility, and cost-effectiveness.

Furthermore, with the expanding reach of the pharmaceutical cold chain sector the logistic providers, manufacturers, and carriers will need to continue to coordinate their efforts to address the ongoing cold chain challenges in the pharmaceutical industry.