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From Rome to Jeddah: Biologics at high volume

24 SkyCell containers defy high temperature risks for a high-value shipment


As the pharma industry is transitioning from a chemical industry to a biological industry, more high-value pharma goods are being shipped in greater quantities across the world. With this increase in valuable shipments comes a need to ensure the safe and secure transportation of goods and manage the logistical risks. 

Total cost optimization is not always straightforward in today’s increasingly complex supply chain, and it can often result in higher risks. As volumes continue to grow, effective risk management becomes a crucial factor in the calculation of total costs.

One approach to optimize costs has been to build even bigger containers and transport more high-value goods at once. However, decision-makers must carefully evaluate whether the risk involved in transporting, for example, $12 million worth of pharmaceutical goods in a single container, as opposed to $3 million worth of goods per container, is justified by the modest cost savings. These savings may only amount to a few hundred or thousand dollars for the entire shipment, but the risk per pallet increases by a factor of 4.

Despite years of training and investments, IATA has found that over 50% of temperature deviations occur at the airport. However, upon closer examination, it becomes evident that the airport itself is not the root problem; rather, it’s a combination of factors including weather conditions, packaging, and the necessity to load goods at the airport.

The risks posed by adverse weather conditions are on the rise and are expected to intensify in the years to come. This will result in flight disruptions, more frequent occurrences of extreme temperatures, and higher average temperatures. The shipping solutions introduced to the market a decade ago were not designed to cope with these challenges.

To address these issues, next-generation containers have been developed. These containers are specifically designed to eliminate the need for reloading at the airport and are capable of handling increasingly extreme heat, and in some cases, extremely cold conditions as well.

Given these challenges, choosing transportation solutions, especially for large-volume shipments, is imperative. It’s essential to factor in risk when calculating the total cost; otherwise, initial savings can lead to significant investigations, write-off costs, and increased inventory expenses due to the need for additional safety stock at various points throughout the supply chain.

Now, let’s talk about the inverse – improving shipping reliability to reduce temperature excursions. SkyCell has been collaborating with a major biologics producer for over two years. Prior to switching to SkyCell, this producer experienced over 500 pallets with temperature excursions every month, which was considered the norm. Consequently, they had to maintain higher levels of additional stock at various stages within the supply chain.

However, since adopting SkyCell solutions, the customer has achieved a remarkable 0.0% temperature excursion rate since the beginning of the partnership. This achievement has resulted in more than EUR 120 million in total cost of ownership (TCO) savings, with the majority coming from reduced stock requirements throughout the supply chain. It turns out that reliability plays a substantial role in reducing TCO.

The rising risk of extreme temperatures

In early August, together with two strategic partners, we embarked on a significant journey. Over the course of seven days, we transported 24 containers filled with valuable cargo, including Bexsero and Menevo, from Rome, Itay to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, via Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Reliability and safety were our utmost concern from the outset. We conducted a meticulous lane risk assessment, working closely with the customer’s trusted freight forwarders to assess the unique challenges of each route. We selected an airline with the requisite capabilities for destinations and conditions, ensuring the security of our high-value cargo throughout the journey. 

One of the most unpredictable variables in the shipment of temperature-sensitive products is the fluctuations in external temperature. During the 1500X’s 3000-mile journey to Saudi Arabia, it encountered extreme temperature variations, ranging from a chilly 2°C to a sweltering 47.2°C.   

Due to the innovative hybrid design of the SkyCell 1500X, the containers maintained strict internal temperatures between +4°C and +6°C throughout the entire journey — an accomplishment beyond the reach of active and passive containers. These design features are not a coincidence – the 1500X has been developed in conjunction with pharma companies, airlines and freight forwarders to ensure that we could provide the most effective solution for high-value and high-volume shipments. 

Efficiency, cost savings and monitoring

What truly sets this journey apart is the efficiency of our solutions. We successfully transported four SkyCell containers on a single PMC and even better, two trucks accommodated 14 units per truck. As shipment volumes continue to rise, this delivery showcased the potential for cost savings at both the origin and destination. 

Additionally, our state-of-the-art monitoring system, SECURE, provided peace of mind for this shipment. Real-time visibility into temperature, humidity, and location tracking was paramount. Our solution monitored the conditions of the shipment every step of the way, ensuring it remained within the optimal temperature range. 


Environmental responsibility

As climate change impacts weather conditions around the world, pharma shipments are increasingly encountering more extreme temperature conditions during transport. This is a trend that is only set to grow. 

SkyCell solutions aren’t just about efficiency and cost savings; they are also about environmental responsibility. By improving efficiency and minimizing temperature excursions, we have significantly reduced CO2 emissions compared to other existing solutions. For example, the 1500X hybrid container, on average, saves 6 tons of CO2e peruse. Therefore, for a fleet of 24 containers, this amounts to a remarkable saving of 144 tons of CO2e. This is a win-win situation: it benefits patients, supports the planet, and positively impacts the bottom line.