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Column/Opinion February 5, 2013

Will economic drivers create a market shift to more reusable temperature-controlled shipping containers around the globe?

An interview with Pelican BioPharma’s Director of Business Development, Jeff Wodrich, and VP of Sales Kevin Lawler.
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Pelican Products Inc., designer and manufacturer of protective case products and portable lighting systems recently acquired Minnesota Thermal Science, a global cold chain logistics supplier.

Healthcare Packaging: Clearly, we keep hearing about the growth of biologics and the inherent problems of shipping more sensitive “large-molecule” medicines. How does Pelican see this growth affecting the supply chain?

Jeff Wodrich: We see an increased need for cold chain packaging solutions that offer not only more thermal protection, but added security and more cost-effectiveness—lower total cost of ownership.

Kevin Lawler:  Everyone talks about major pharmaceutical companies being faced with expiring patents. One change we see is increased acquisitions in a race to get new drugs in the pipeline. The other significant change is cost-reduction initiatives.

Healthcare Packaging: And that’s where this notion of reusability comes into play. For very expensive drugs moving long distances, a more expensive container only makes sense if it can be used over and over.

Jeff Wodrich: That’s right. There is a financial advantage to a reusable system. In cold chain shipping, companies are now computing “cost per use.”  If you want to drive more effective cost per use, while lowering environmental impact, you’ve got to take a look at a reusable system.

Kevin Lawler: Another big trend is the movement away from dry ice. Phase-change materials can replace dry ice, but again the key is multiple uses of the more robust reusable container.

Healthcare Packaging: As you know, plastic pallets and reusable bins have been available in packaging for some time now, yet the problem is the reverse logistics chain. It needs to be effective enough to ensure the reusable container makes it way back through the chain. Is this happening for cold chain shippers?

Kevin Lawler: The distribution chain is more complicated than ever. There is certainly an infrastructure in North America and one is emerging in Europe; other markets are developing as well.

Jeff Wodrich: That’s what MTS really brings to the table with our recent acquisition—distribution software and services, including asset management tools.

Healthcare Packaging: Global third-party logistics suppliers (3PLs) have to be looking at reusability for the long-term sustainability of their business, no?

Jeff Woodrich: Exactly, we have already established great relationships with large global integrators as well as a variety of specialty couriers around the world. 

Healthcare Packaging: Do you see any other market drivers at work here?

Jeff Wodrich: We are seeing compliance organizations paying more attention to Controlled Room Temperature (CRT).  Traditionally, 80 percent of our market has been 2° to 8°C chill.  But we definitely see 15° to 25°C growing. 

Kevin Lawler: If it’s a valuable product moving great distances and needing reliable temperature control and protection,  reusable containers are the way to go.

 

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