The Danger of Airport Tarmacs to Pharmaceuticals.

The Pharmaceutical industry scraps $15 Billion in product each year due to temperature deviations during shipment. They spend another $20 Billion on resupply costs and mandated regulatory investigations into the root cause of the issue. The vast majority of all of these temperature excursions occur on the airport tarmac.

The current “industry-standard” technology deployed provides very limited information when it comes to understanding a root cause. Specifically, a PDF document that provides a temperature graph only tells a pharmaceutical company that they had an issue during transport, not why or how it possibly occurred.

For example, you may know that your product went out of its specified temperature range for 30 minutes on a certain date, at a certain time–rendering it bad. But the pharmaceutical firm is still required by law to obtain information from their logistics partners to manually reconstruct the shipment timeline and changes of custody along with way.

The accuracy and fidelity of this data is usually less than optimal due to a reliance of human generated data, disparate reporting systems from vendors, and planned or approximated transportation legs versus reality. For example, the airlines may not report that your six pallets of products were split between two separate flights a few hours apart and then recombined at the final airline destination.

Why does this matter?

Without definitive insight, no organization can effectively change their standard operating procedures to eliminate expensive reoccurring events within their supply chain.  To illustrate, let’s review an example regarding flights.

This image represents nine pharmaceutical shipments from Switzerland to Japan for a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical firm.   The shipments are ordered from new to old, with each shipment traveling on the same lane. Purple represents truck segments, grey represents warehouse segments, orange represents tarmac time, and blue represents are on the airplane and flights. All of this data was derived from sensor based data and pattern recognition – not human input or estimates.screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-2-23-03-pm

Notice something different in the pattern?  The airline changed to three and four flight legs versus two in order to get the product from point A to point B. Why does this matter? The extra flights exposed the product to 50% or more incremental tarmac time. Thus, the product was left on hot a hot concrete surface for much longer than desired (or possibly allowed).

How hot can the surface of the airport tarmac get?

Research shows that the surface temperature of asphalt pavement can reach ~ 50ºC  (122ºF) higher than the air temperature. Concrete pavement surface temperature can reach a temperature of about 30ºC  higher at noon (86F degrees higher).

Most pharmaceuticals must be kept from 2C to 8ºC or 15ºC to 25ºC. Even basic over the counter drugs like Claritin must be stored between 20 to 25 Celsius (68ºF-77ºF).  To quote the study, “Exposure of 1 second to pavement at 158 ºF can burn human skin. At 158 ºF you can cook an egg on pavement surface in five minutes.”

Even when pharmaceuticals are packaged with dry ice or special phase change material to maintain temperature during transport, an increase of 50% more exposure to potentially damaging temperatures is not ideal.  The packaging will break down faster, thus increasing risk of product loss.

Not being made aware of that exposure is even worse, because the pharmaceutical company would not be able to truly diagnose the source of the issue. Logistics professionals can only achieve clarity and affect change through complete supply chain oversight from CargoSense.  A simple data logger acts only like a canary in the coal mine:  If its dead, so is the product.  But knowing why is more important in the long run.

Cold Chain Shipping Loss in Pharmaceuticals – $35B per year and growing

In 2014, the pharmaceutical industry had sales of $790 Billion in non-cold-chain (77.8%) and $225 Billion in Cold-chain or controlled room temperature (22.2%) products. That totals $1.015 Trillion. If we estimate a 5% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) then by 2019, that number will be $1.36 Trillion.

The losses associated with temperature excursions in healthcare come to $35 Billion. That is broken down as follows:

  • $15.2B in Lost product cost
  • $8.6B in root cause analysis
  • $5.65B in clinical trial loss
  • $3.65B in replacement costs
  • $1B in wasted logistics costs

Within Clinical trials, the total loss of $5.65B is broken down further as follows*:

  • $1.3B in Opportunity labor costs
  • $2B in Direct labor costs
  • $2.34B in Trial product loss

Loss is present across the industry in high numbers, for example:

  • 25% of vaccines reach their destination degraded because of incorrect shipping.
  • 30% of scrapped pharmaceuticals can be attributed to logistics issues alone
  • 20% of temp-sensitive products are damaged during transport due to a broken cold chain.

A pallet of unprotected product on an airport tarmac with an ambient temperature of ~70°F (21°C) can quickly reach temperatures above ~130°F (55°C). At that temperature, you can fry an egg in 20 minutes.

So, what is a billion worth?

$16 Billion, which is the approximate costs incurred by the top ten pharma firms due to temperature excursions, is 20 times the average price to earnings ratio of big pharmaceutical firms.

$320 Billion, which is the total corporate value wasted due to temperature, is larger than the 2015 total market capitalization of Johnson & Johnson ($274 Billion).

Get the infographic here


* = Ray Geoff, Wyeth Vaccines—white paper entitled “Cold Chain to Clinical Site: The Shipping Excursions”, indeed website salary estimates
Other sources: World Health Organization (WHO); Parenteral Drug Associate(PDA);; other industry estimates.