Ensure quality from origin to destination

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Pharma logistics requires specialists to safeguard its integrity from the origin to the destination.  Stavros Evangelakakis, who is the Cargolux product manager specialized in pharmaceutical and healthcare products shares his insights and how Cargolux is building up its capabilities to meet this high yield commodity that requires special care when in transit.

What has been some of the significant enhancement of your pharma product in the recent past to comply with the stringent demand in the transportation of pharmaceutical products? It has been a long journey, but with our cross-divisional KeepCool Team we have managed to introduce a few new developments in order to accommodate this type of special, time and temperature-sensitive commodity. We elaborated our generic SOP, in collaboration with suppliers, we tested and developed the air cargo cover (courtesy of DuPont), optimized our processes and stepped up our dedicated training efforts. We are proud to be the first GDP certified airline as well as the first carrier to have performed a thermal mapping/analysis of our aircraft.

Give us a sense of the volume of pharma products handled in a year at Cargolux? What is the rate of growth that you see in this category year on year? I would like to say we see steady growth in pharma and healtcare products.

As a carrier what are some of the important demands on you by pharma shippers? Shippers require airlines to have tested and efficient processes in place to handle their shipments, they expect you to have a quality department as well as specially trained and highly qualified staff, you must be able to offer temperature-controlled facilities at origin and destination, you are to maintain a recording data archive, they want short transit times and expect you to monitor and track the temperature of their shipments. Broadly speaking, they expect you to be able to ensure and demonstrate at all times (as per SOP) to maintain the indicated temperature range as per booking once the goods are handed over to you.

Could you give us some indication of the investment going into facility enhancement for your pharma product in the short and long term? We don’t have facilities ourselves but we are privileged to operate out of a fully GDP certified hub in LUX with a dedicated state-of-the-art healthcare facility which opened in early 2013. The facility offers a constant environment at +2°C to + 8°C as well as +15°C to + 25°C. Goods are offloaded from the truck into the respective environment, built up on aircraft pallets and then stored in special temperature-controlled (cool) cells until loaded onto the aircraft. This has the advantage that temperature excursions are avoided because pallets don’t sit on the tarmac and wait to be loaded on the aircraft but go straight from the cool cell to the main or lower deck. In parallel, we are in discussions with key GHAs to encourage them to develop dedicated processes for the appropriate handling of pharma shipments if they want to be part of that specific league. Good examples are SATS and HACTL who have recently obtained certification status for their pharma handling capabilities and more GHAs are set to follow.

At a macro level what are some of the emerging trends in the healthcare logistics specially in the context of the complex demands of the healthcare industry? Do you see a transformation in the way pharma products are made, sold and delivered? Due to the growing complexity of demands, it is increasingly critical that airlines be able to develop tailored solutions together with their customers.

Could you tell us about your recent collaboration with Panalpina in flying pharma from Puerto Rico to Europe? What are some of the new routes you are looking to add in the near future? Two long-standing business partners, Panalpina and Cargolux, have put their strengths together and started this project for healthcare coming out of Puerto Rico. Panalpina brings the goods and Cargolux flies them to Luxembourg from where Panalpina delivers to the final customer.

Could you share with us, if there are any you can recollect, outstanding examples/instances of really bringing the value of air cargo in the pharmaceutical product category, absolutely safeguarding the integrity of the product from the origin to the end? Being the first airline in the world which has achieved GDP certification was no mean feat and is a fine example of added value creation. Another example would be the collaboration with DuPont that led to the development of the air cargo cover, which was designed to avoid temperature peaks in very hot climates once the aircraft pallets are offloaded from the aircraft and before being transferred to the warehouse. Also, Cargolux is arguably the only airline in the world that has performed a thorough thermal mapping of its 747-400F and 747-8F aircraft and this gives us a unique insight into the exact behavior of the aircraft’s four independently.

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