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Packing a punch

Delicate cargoes and pharmaceutical products must arrive at their destination in one piece, and therefore packaging systems are critical to ensure their safe delivery. Stan Abbott looks closer at the packaging market
Specialist packaging for cargo, such as scientific instruments, calibration tools and pharma products, may be sourced either from the shipper or from several highly specialist companies that have built a business precisely around this demand. Global logistics giant DHL is no stranger to providing specialist packaging, according to David Bang, CEO at LifeConEx and Global Head of DHL Temperature Management Solutions. 
Bang says that with more than 1,000 certified life sciences specialists, based in 117 Good Distribution Practice-compliant (GDP) stations around the world, DHL offers ‘Air Thermonet’ and ‘LifeConEx’ services primarily for time and temperature-sensitive life sciences and healthcare shipments. DHL Air Thermonet offers temperature controlled life sciences shipments, and delivers regulatory compliance with higher visibility – supported by the company’s GDP-compliant global network, alongside proactive monitoring and intervention.
LifeConEx, the temperature management specialist owned by DHL, enables clients of all sizes to transport temperature-sensitive products globally in the most optimal and efficient way possible, via an optimised temperature-controlled chain, claims the company. DHL uses its data analytics capability to help customers choose the best type of packaging for particular shipments, bearing in mind cost  and speed. These range from single or multi-use passive insulated packaging services to large active cool containers.  
The company enjoys IATA Regulated Agent Screener status, says Bang, but GDP compliance at many stations adds greater visibility, alongside control of sensitive products.
“This is because we can perform screening in a properly regulated environment for product safety and integrity,” says Bang. For example, DHL Global Forwarding in San Juan is the only freight forwarder in Puerto Rico with large dedicated 2°C to 8°C and 15°C to 25°C cool pharmaceuticals chambers, as well as security screening status.
“Our network itself gives us a strong competitive advantage because customers want to partner up with a provider like DHL, which has a consistent quality system in both manufacturing and consuming countries.” It’s a network reinforced by DHL’s relationship with its key carriers, incentivised by the company’s own accreditation awards system for pharmaceuticals carriage, most recently won by Cathay Pacific Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo, Emirates SkyCargo and Swiss WorldCargo.
Bang has noticed over the past two to three years that customers are expressing an increasing need for data analytics and IoT (Internet of Things) capabilities, especially with regard to risk management and supply chain optimisation. “For instance, based on very complex big data, our IT system and our data analytics platform, we can offer many powerful insights that lead to more predictive and proactive measures. Because of advanced cloud-based data processing power, some data insights are now possible that simply weren’t so a few years ago.”
In a practical sense, this means, for example, that advanced weather data can predict temperature changes that might affect the safety of the cargo. Also, historic data can be 
used to predict temperature changes that might not otherwise have been anticipated. Peli BioThermal Ltd, the UK division of Minnesota-based Pelican BioThermal Inc, provides the life sciences industry with a comprehensive range of patented and thermal protection packaging for the safe transport of pharmaceuticals, clinical trials, diagnostics, tissue, vaccines and blood supplies.
The company has been supplying single and reusable bulk shippers for air cargo applications for several years now – these are its Crēdo Xtreme, CoolPall and Vertos products. “We have been building a ‘rental fleet’ over the past three years,” explains Dominic Hyde, who became Vice President Crēdo On Demand a year ago. “We offer a wide range of single-use and reusable passive shippers, from parcel size up to pallet-accepting models. The majority of these products use PCM (phase change material) coolants, which give excellent, consistent thermal protection and insulation performance.
Hyde says the products have a high performance, they are durable and payload space-volume efficient, and are used throughout the pharmaceutical and clinical trials sectors, as well as for military, and emergency and first responder applications. In a competitive market place, Peli BioThermal sees its rental services business as a key component in maintaining its competitive edge by making its customers ‘owner-operators’ and delivering significant cost savings. In 2018, the company saw growth of 90% in its temperature-controlled fleet size, and a similar rise in revenues. It now supplies eight out of ten of the world’s 
big pharmaceutical companies. 
But the bedrock of its businesses is its principal products – the Crēdo Cube. Hyde believes it is the clinical market leader for high performance vacuum insulated shippers (containers) with phase change material. “PCMs melt and solidify at a specific temperature, so are capable of storing and releasing large amounts of energy. Heat is absorbed or released when these materials change from solid to liquid and vice versa,” he explains. 
Ranger Aerospace LLC, based in Greenville, SC, has been in the air cargo support business for 35 years, having begun life in horse transport in New York.Its ACL (Airline Container Leasing) Airshop business has over recent years been transformed into a fast-growing technology-driven worldwide logistics expert for ULDs from pallets to containers.
“And,” says CEO Steve Townes, “we still transport horses and other live animals, in addition to many other air cargo products.”What sets the company apart, says Townes, is that it is vertically integrated. >>

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