Article: How To Manage Risk of Temperature Excursions in Times of Supply Chain Disruption


On the May 7th 2020, World Courier hosted an on-demand webinar on how to assess available packaging solutions with practical advice on what to consider in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Below, you'll find the most relevant questions that were asked during the webinar. 

1. With airfreight capacities down to historic lows, how would you ensure continuity of supply of life-saving medication when there are no more flight options available?

A: We can see a lot of airlines converting their passenger aircraft to cargo. This will certainly secure additional air freight capacity but it is observable that supply and demand are distorted due to the decreased capacities. When there is limited or low availability, one potential solution could be air charters.

Naturally, we will observe a rise in chartered airplanes and even in helicopters, especially in very remote destinations. This is of course connected with higher costs but during this time of disruptions, this is at least a possibility to keep supply routes up.

2. How would you ensure the replenishment of phase changing materials for passive thermal containers at less prominent destinations?

A: It helps if you have a global network yourself and make sure your logistics partner is not outsourcing to a sub-contractor of a sub-contractor with an infrastructure that allows you to have your own employees at those destinations. To ensure the phase changing materials (PCMs) are replenished, this network is helpful but it is even more important to have people who are involved appropriately trained. Not just for organic staff but also sub-contracted agents. Even though there might be destinations where there is no other choice but to have agents involved, you should make sure your logistics partner has a robust training matrix in place which should be reviewed within any auditing process.

3. As the frequency of flights has been drastically reduced, how will this affect thermal container supply via air shipment?  

A: From what we have experienced and heard from customers, the situation depends. Some customers faced longer periods of waiting when they wanted to source their preferred thermal containers - no matter if active or passive- especially the bigger containers for pallets. The three most important factors to consider are:

 - How many containers are required?
- How quickly they are needed?
- Where do they need to be?

At World Courier, our proprietary thermal containers like Cocoon are rented out and also transported by us. That gives us independence and flexibility. Usually, the thermal container is owned and manufactured by a thermal container company. These companies supply directly to customers but mainly they distribute their containers via middlemen just like airlines. In some cases the airlines own the containers themselves or have a dedicated stock. Additionally,  some customers stock their own thermal containers.

Given this model and fewer flights, it is not surprising that waiting times to source a certain thermal container might be longer than usual if you source via a middleman or even directly from the distributor. One suggestion would be to check with your logistics service provider and understand what model of thermal container sourcing they have. Ideally, you would have a partner who is not dependent on thermal container companies and airlines when it comes to sourcing thermal containers.

4. If I carry out a packaging review now, will it be still relevant after COVID-19?

A: The air cargo industry is not expected to be 100% reinstated to pre-COVID disruption levels anytime soon, especially in terms of connectivity and flight frequency. This is even more so for destinations that traditionally rely heavily on passenger belly-hold cargo capacity.

The impact of reduced direct flight options will also have an impact on the total transit time of a shipment. This dynamic environment demands flexibility and adaptability to the changes in the way we move our time and temperature sensitive cargo around the world.

A review of packaging solutions will provide more options in terms of transit time, transport route ambient profile, and network routing. It will also build resilience in the transportation of pharmaceutical products to cope with the possibility of more fundamental shifts in the post COVID-19 supply chain.

5. Who is ultimately responsible for temperature deviation if the root cause is COVID-19 impact?

A: The merits of the case differ case by case and depend on many variables such as service contracts, agreed SOPs, etc. Our recommendation is to encourage protecting your valuable cargo with the most appropriate packaging to reduce the impact of external uncontrollable factors.

For a deeper insight into how to manage the risk of temperature excursions in time of supply chain disruption services, join our current webinar series