Passive cooling has been a prevalent practice for shipping temperature sensitive consignments. Very robust passive cooling solutions exist which can maintain the temperature of the shipment to the product’s acceptable band. For example, many pharmaceutical shipments need to be maintained in 2-8 degrees band, with ideal temperature of 5 degrees. Advances in phase change material (PCM) technologies allow custom PCM cassettes to maintain specific product temperatures, like 5 degrees for vaccines, -18 for frozen ice creams and so on. PCMs are like custom ice boxes –
which maintain the product at the melting/freezing point of the PCM material. Hence, once the PCM material is identified, a well-designed shipment will calculate the worst case time to delivery, and pack right amount of PCM to ensure that latent heat of PCM is sufficient to last this duration, given thermal conductance of the packaging box and specific heat of the product, with some margin.
Compared to active shipment (i.e. dedicated refrigerated transport), passive shipment becomes extremely cost effective when size of shipments is small. Pharmaceuticals, e-commerce deliveries are some examples of industries which benefit from passive shipments. As the scale of shipments grow, some key challenges arise:
- Product Requirements:A company may have multiple SKUs, which need to be maintained at different temperatures. This enforces custom SOPs (standard operating procedures) for each SKU.
- Dynamic Demand:In an e-commerce type of scenario, product orders keep flowing in dynamically throughout the day. These orders need to be fulfilled within a short timeframe too. While companies adopt demand forecasting strategies to ensure product availability, the same amount of science & technology needs to be used for passive logistics planning as well, Ex. Ensuring sufficient frozen PCMs to ensure fulfillment, especially during peak demand seasons.
- Shipment delays: Unlike active shipments, passive shipments are extremely sensitive to unplanned stoppages and delays. Once the PCMs melt, the product quality is compromised.
- Environmental Variations: PCM melting time is a function of PCM’s latent heat, shipper box’s insulation properties, product’s specific heat, and the ambient temperature. In a country like India, ambient temperature can change from 2 degrees to 45 degrees, many a times within a matter of days. A global shipment may see ambient variation of 60 degrees within a single shipment.
- Scale: As scale of operations increase, managing the PCM packaging with SOPs becomes extremely challenging. In absence of measurement metrics and uninformed personnel, breakdowns in type, amount and quality of PCMs packaged in a shipment is inevitable.
At Tagbox, we have built a Passive Shipment Management Platform (PSMP) to address these challenges. The key components of the platform are:
- Order-ERP Linkage: The platform reads information like SKU type, product quantity and expected duration to destination, and calculates type and quantity of PCM required to ensure shipment temperature compliance.
- Shipment Creation: Based on suggestions, the right amount of PCMs are packed with the product. The shipment box is also equipped with Tag360 sensor to monitor box temperature while it is stored and shipped.
- Supply Chain Interventions: Tag360 sensor records temperature performance of shipment through its entire journey. This data is transmitted real-time via TagHub gateway or Taglink Mobile App. Early Warning Signals helps operations team detect any anomaly in temperature trends well in time to allow for appropriate interventions. Learning from excursion events makes the planning process better next time around
Apart from monitoring and alert systems, PSMP delivers analytics suite with features like diagnosis of systemic root causes, vendor and product benchmarking, predictive risk and risk management, as well as compliance management.