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At DHL passive UHF is the solution for pharmaceutical air freight

Use Cases | By PR RFID im Blick | 11 January 2016
Temperature-controlled air freight for pharmaceutical products Temperature-controlled air freight for pharmaceutical products Photo: DHL International

The constantly growing number of temperature-controlled air cargo increases demand for temperature monitoring – RFID is a part of the solution

Martin Stratmann, DHL Thermonet Product Manager Germany, anticipates that the demand for temperature- controlled air cargo will continue to increase, especially for pharmaceutical products. The logistics provider has just expanded its capacity with a new 600-square-metre logistics centre at the Frankfurt hub – it is one of 90 Thermonet stations worldwide where RFID sensor technology has become part of the transport solution for life sciences and healthcare products.

Martin Stratmann, DHL Thermonet Product Manager Germany, in interview with “RFID im Blick”

Strict specifications raise the demand

“It is currently under discussion as to whether it is an economic option for the pharmaceutical industry to change from air freight to sea fright. But we continue to see a positive development in the transport numbers of temperature-controlled air cargo. This is based on strict requirements and the extension of GDP (Good Distribution Practice) requirements to pharmaceutical ingredients as well as the development of new temperature-sensitive, complex biotechnological drugs. With our current line-up in the Life Sciences and Healthcare sector, we believe we are very well equipped to meet the demands of our customers”, says Martin Stratmann, DHL Thermonet Product Manager Germany.

Martin StratmannMartin Stratmann “The RFID Smart Sensor is part of a comprehensive industry solution for the Life Sciences and Healthcare sector. This service is currently offered at more than 90 stations worldwide, from where we cover the majority of life sciences and healthcare goods distribution.”

More capacity for temperature controlled products

In the new logistics centre in Mörfelden-Walldorf, DHL has set up two temperature-controlled areas over an area of 600 square meters. One maintains temperatures of between plus two to plus eight degrees Celsius; the other one maintains temperatures of plus 15 degrees up to plus 25 degrees Celsius. “We had need of a larger location because we no longer had enough capacity in Cargo City South because of the ever-growing volume of temperature-controlled air freight. We now have the ability to expand storage capacity at the new location”, explains the DHL Thermonet Product Manager. “The majority of current users come from the Frankfurt region. The solution, however, is available via Frankfurt for customers throughout Germany – these are mainly companies producing pharmaceutical products, who are exporting their thermo-sensitive products worldwide. In order to minimise the risk of incorrect handling, we can keep temperature-sensitive goods in intermediate storage for as long as necessary.”

RFID as part of global temperature monitoring

Martin Stratmann is reluctant to tell us the exact volume of temperature- controlled air cargo shipments that are already being processed by Thermonet stations. All he discloses is that DHL are offering Smart Sensor RFID technology at more than 90 stations worldwide as part of a comprehensive industry solution. “We distribute the majority of goods relating to life sciences and healthcare,” says Stratmann. Specially trained experts dispatch the consignments in accordance with the GDP requirements via the worldwide network. Other key supports are the coordinated Quality Management System and a global IT platform that records and centrally monitors logistical time and temperature data. Every supply chain process and contingency can be planned in advance with the Cold Chain Design.

17 control points in the supply chain

The RFID sensors are mounted on the outside of packages and monitor the ambient temperature along the supply chain. The standard process of DHL Thermonet includes 17 control points, and the data sensor is read out at four locations in the supply chain: “These four data-reading locations are at the goods issue departure airport, at the goods reception departure airport, at the goods issue destination airport, and at the goods reception destination airport. We support our customers by the early identification of any temperature deviations along the supply chain. By special request, we are also able to offer additional scanning intervals. This involves making individual arrangements with the customer and other stakeholders in the supply chain”, explains the Product Manager.

Passive RFID technology as a requirement in air freight

The passive RFID sensor has been specially developed for air freight: “The DHL Smart Sensor, a passive device based on UHFRFID technology, was developed principally for air cargo. Non- RFID systems are often rejected by airlines”, explains Stratmann. For road or sea transport, DHL uses a GPS module in combination with sensors. As a short-term solution for monitoring storage, temperature GSM sensors are used. The equipment is used for the validation of transport routes prior to the actual dispatch of pharmaceutical goods. RFID technology has for many years been in operation at DHL Freight (Division for Road Transport) in France for a major customer in various distribution centres. Is DHL Thermonet working on a further development? “Basically, we keep an eye on the opportunities for using new technologies and adapt our services, if that makes sense,” explains Stratmann. He does not rule out the extension of the network: “We started with 30 stations in 2013, and the network has tripled within two years. We observe our clients’ requirements meticulously.

Last modified on Monday, 11 January 2016 12:29
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