British pharmaceutical wholesaler and distributor, CHAPPER healthcare has a worldwide reputation for successfully sourcing and distributing pharmaceutical products globally. Established over 40 years ago, the company pride themselves on being global experts in shipping speciality pharmaceuticals. Warehouse Manager Stephen Prior, explains more about overcoming the logistical challenges of shipping medicines around the globe and the state-of-the-art packaging solutions his team utilise to overcome every eventuality, including the weather.
Can you explain more about your role and what it consists of?
We are able to meet all storage requirements including cold storage and I am in charge of the overall running of the warehouse and manage the logistics for temperature controlled shipments of speciality pharmaceuticals. This includes sourcing the right packaging, validated cool boxes and temperature loggers for all our shipments. The types of medicines we ship around the world range from ambient products to highly specialised temperature controlled pharmaceuticals that require very specific packing. Each product and its onward journey to the customer will have its own unique set of challenges that we need to be aware of and make provisions for. For example, we regularly export products that require different temperature ranges such as 15 – 25°C, 2 – 8°C and frozen products. As a company we understand shipping processes, temperature control, customs regulations and the sensitivities around getting products to patients on time so they can be treated.
Can you explain more about how medicines are shipped around the world to customers and suppliers?
One vitally important element of the process is the correct packaging of the products. Using the right type of packaging will avoid breakages and make sure that the product is suitably protected throughout its journey, whether this is by air, sea or road. To prevent breakages, we use special boxes, which are extremely strong and durable. We do everything possible to maintain the integrity of products to ensure that nothing is broken in transit. For example, liquids are placed in plastic bags, to prevent contamination of other products in the unlikely event of a breakage, packs of vials are bubble wrapped and for bottles we use corrugated tubes to protect them. It is crucial that every product reaches our customers in pristine condition. Our temperature-controlled shipments are all packed in validated boxes. We do our own internal testing on the boxes, in addition to reviewing the manufacturers test data to ensure that they will maintain the correct product temperature throughout the duration of the journey. All our boxes are clearly labelled with warning labels so anyone handling them is fully aware of its delicate contents. Another piece of technology we use for our customers are USB temperature loggers. These help us, and our clients review temperature throughout the duration of the journey to ensure there have been no temperature excursions.
What other special features does your packaging have?
The temperature-controlled boxes we use have been designed to keep their temperature for a set amount of time depending where in the world the package is travelling to. For example, if a product is going to Europe we may use a box which lasts for 48 hours and if the product is going further then we will use a box which lasts up to 120 hours to ensure the temperature is controlled for the duration of the journey. We will also factor in flight delays and that products need to be cleared through customs which can all add to the length of the journey.
What are some of the challenges of shipping products around the world?
The cold weather across most of Europe this winter has been particularly challenging. Temperatures were below freezing for a number of weeks, which made it difficult to ship products correctly and ensure they didn’t freeze. Pharma products have temperature stability data and the products are only viable if they are stored within a particular temperature range. To adhere to this, CHAPPER healthcare have adopted the latest advances in temperature-controlled boxes. This ensures we are completely prepared for all weather conditions. Some of the boxes we use are made of PCM (Phase Change Material). They can be placed in a fridge once packaged up, which is unusual as most other boxes can’t. This type of specialist packaging means we can ensure the products are kept in the correct temperature range in a fridge or if the weather is particularly cold outside. The PCM packs go into hibernation mode if it is below a certain temperature outside which ensures the products are kept at a constant temperature in the box and temperatures do not deviate above or below the allowed range. All our PCM boxes are reusable and we encourage clients to send them back to us, so we can repack the boxes for them, this is also important to us from an environmental perspective.
What about shipping products to hot countries, does this impact the type of packaging you use?
For hot countries we adopt similar principles as we do for cold countries to make sure temperature sensitive products reach their final destination within the required temperature range. For extremely hot climates, such as the Middle East in summer, we will use special boxes which may have a lifetime of up to 144 hours to ensure products stay within the required temperature range.
What other logistical challenges do you face in shipping?
It is vital to ensure that all products leaving the CHAPPER healthcare warehouse have the correct paperwork, to prevent any delays in transit. For example, controlled drugs will require import and export licences. We have also spent years developing relationships with reputable freight forwarders and couriers. The people we work with are experts in dealing with pharmaceuticals and temperature-controlled shipments and they ensure that our exceptional customer services levels are maintained until the package reaches its destination. Through our knowledge and that of our logistics partners, we have learnt to anticipate any problems that can arise due to the specific documentation requirements of particular customs authorities.
How important is customer service to CHAPPER healthcare?
Whether it’s a small one-off shipment or the delivery of several containers, we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional customer service and supplying products safely, securely and on time. As a team we are fully aware that there is always a patient at the centre of every request. We can assure manufactures that we can manage the supply chain and ensure that their products reach their end destination in perfect condition, and on time, each and every time.
CHAPPER healthcare supply branded and generic pharmaceuticals including orphan drugs, over the counter medicines, veterinary medicines and other medical supplies to a wide range of customers, including distributors, healthcare establishments and the end user.
For more information contact Erica Fearnley, Marketing Manager