Trucks parked in snow

4 Key Metrics You Should Be Tracking When Transporting Temperature-Sensitive Goods

Trucks parked in snow

By David Parker

Managing cold chains is a complex undertaking, as cold chains need uninterrupted refrigeration throughout storage and distribution to maintain product quality and viability. Inconsistencies in cold chain storage and distribution are a primary factor for food and drug spoilage. To meet this challenge, pharmaceutical and food & beverage companies are looking to implement technologies like IoT, data analytics, cloud, and AI/ML to provide improved visibility into their operations, and to help them become more resilient when facing major disruptions such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a digital visibility platform, little is left to chance, as products are monitored from the moment they leave the manufacturing/distribution facility to final delivery. Cloudleaf’s Digital Visibility Platform provides continuous visibility and insight into your supply chain, giving you the data you need to track metrics such as the location, condition, and status of your shipments at every point along the supply chain.

Here’s a look at the key metrics that you should be tracking to optimize your supply chain performance when transporting temperature-sensitive products.

On-Time, In-Full (OTIF) is one of the important measures when analyzing supply chain performance. This KPI flags issues with fulfillment as well as supplier reliability.

OTIF is simply the number of orders that were delivered on time, with the right quantity of the correct products, on the day that the customer required them.

“On time” is particularly critical when it comes to transporting cold chain products such as vaccines and perishable food items. 25% of vaccines are degraded by the time they arrive at their destination, due to incorrect shipping procedures, according to the International Air Transport Association's Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics. In addition, 20% of temperature-sensitive biopharmaceutical products are damaged during cold chain transport. 

In terms of the “In Full” aspect of OTIF, when a manufacturer sends a customer an ASN (advanced shipping notification) saying that the 20 pallets of products are available and will be delivered on September 9th, the recipient is already making plans that he/she will receive those pallets. If only 7 pallets out of the 20 were delivered, the OTIF KPI is 35% (not good).

OTIF can be used to measure supplier performance and can also help identify which of your suppliers gets your orders delivered on time, but perhaps not in the correct quantity. When it comes time to review supplier contracts, you’ll have the data you need to see how well they performed over the course of the contract. If you’re a supplier, and your supply chain is struggling to keep up with orders, it’s a good idea to pay extra attention to your OTIF scores.

The key here is to not just track OTIF at the pallet level, but to also track the number boxes on the pallet, and, if applicable, the products that sit inside each box. Consider using a solution that goes beyond simply tracking the truck, plane or ship that transports your product. The Cloudleaf Digital Visibility Platform enables visibility at the product level – whether it’s a package or pallet or product container.

Cloudleaf can give you visibility from the shipping dock door of the manufacturer, right through to transportation, pickup by the 3PL, and all the way to tracking to the last mile to its final delivery, ensuring that all of the 20 boxes on that one pallet arrived and in full. Cloudleaf can dynamically recalculate the ETA of your products by pulling in additional contextual data about things like weather, traffic information, flight delays, etc.

For example, if a traffic accident occurs, it might delay a truck’s arrival. Cloudleaf will alert the receiver via mobile device messaging system or collaboration tool, saying that what was a 20-minute journey is now a 1 1/2–hour journey. This information can also be sent back to the manufacturer, with a message saying, “The shipment that you promised to your customer today at 4:30 is not going to arrive at that set date and time.” By giving them prior warning, the manufacturer can help mitigate any SLA or penalty exposure. By the same token, if your product is going to arrive early, you can alert the team awaiting the product at the receiving end that it’s going to be early, so they can have the appropriate staff available at the right time. This is why it’s extremely important to have both on time and in full data available together, especially in the pharmaceutical and food & beverage industries.

Excursion Types

Temperature excursions occur when a product has been operating outside the recommended temperature range. In terms of vaccines, an accurate temperature history that reflects actual vaccine temperatures is critical for protecting your vaccines. Cloudleaf can be used to identify temperature excursions quickly and take immediate action to correct them, preventing vaccine waste and the potential need to re-vaccinate patients. A biotech company that collects and transports time-sensitive biomedical material was able to track blood plasma samples with 100% visibility using Cloudleaf.

Similarly, controlling temperature is critical for food safety, as it helps to prevent foodborne diseases and outbreaks that can result in public health issues. Globally, the food industry churns 1.3B tons of waste, while the average plant operates at 30-60% idle capacity. An increase of 8º F can reduce shelf life for products by seven days and recalls can cost companies up to $42M in penalties.

General guidelines require that fresh produce must be kept at 0–16 °C or colder, while frozen and deep-frozen foods must generally be kept at 0 to -25 °C or colder. When evaluating the food supply chain, it's also important to consider packaging, logistics providers and visibility technology to ensure the successful transport of products. Issues with any of these components can lead to product waste or food safety issues. 

Food and beverage suppliers use Cloudleaf to verify food and ingredient movement, history and transaction handoffs across stakeholders for product quality and compliance mandates. By verifying food and ingredient conditions as well as transaction handoffs, food and beverage companies benefit from lower compliance costs and food waste, while increasing product quality.

Excursion Types by Route

Many pharmaceuticals use a combination of trucks, trains, ships and airplanes to get their products to the end consumer. These routes can be long and complex; and product drop-offs may require all of those modes of transportation as well as multiple points of communication. Exchanges and drop-offs may require many modes of transportation and points of communication. Bad weather can bog down transit. So can hangar and dock delays, with shipments waiting in a plane or ship that’s too cold or sunlight that’s too hot. A transportation breakdown in cold chains means more than just a delayed shipment – the entire shipment could be destroyed, whether it’s on a plane, delivery vehicle, or ship.

With increased visibility into your cold chain using Cloudleaf, you’ll get detailed insights into the carrier (3PL/4PL) who is transporting the product at a particular point in time. With this information, you can quickly identify which carrier is transporting the product when damage occurs. This valuable insight into the ‘Chain of Custody’ allows you to reduce losses due to penalty claim payouts and potentially reduce insurance coverage costs.

Not many ports or airports have reliable temperature-controlled storage areas. If they do, they often only operate at fixed temperatures that may not be ideal for your cold chain products. Fortunately, we’re working with CSafe Global, a leader in temperature-controlled container solutions for transporting life-enhancing pharmaceuticals, to develop a custom digital visibility platform for their Air Cargo track and trace technology as well as digital tracking for their Parcel and Cell & Gene packaging solutions. This innovative solution will unleash tremendous value for their customers, and most importantly, ensure that patients receive the medications they need 100% of the time

Best/Least Performing Route/Carrier

Both routes and carriers can be tracked to understand which are performing the best. Late deliveries can cause stockouts, not only at the receiving facility but throughout the network. It can indicate transportation problems in the system; for example, the condition of vehicles and difficult terrain can indicate the need to adjust schedules, routes or driver performance issues.

You can also look at the average number of miles between vehicle accidents by a specific driver, vehicle, or route, the average transit time, average vehicle loading/unloading time, turnaround time, number of stops per route and number of on-time pickups, etc. All of this can be displayed on a dashboard with real-time data flowing in from Cloudleaf. Once this data is tracked, you can then implement and understand best transportation/route best practices to improve your shipment master operating plan and processes.

The main challenge with cold chains today is that one problem at any point along the delivery journey can greatly impact the entire chain. Cloudleaf solves this issue with its SaaS platform that leverages hyper-scale cloud, digital twin, AI/ML and IoT technologies to deliver continuous visibility and intelligence. Once we capture the data, you can slice/dice the data any way you want. We can also easily tap into your existing transportation management systems data to provide a complete picture of your supply chain.

Adopting technologies such as the Cloudleaf platform to track the real-time location and status of goods and measure your operations will ultimately help your organization become more resilient and successful as you weather this ever-changing business environment.