Company insight The logistics of a pandemic

As the pharmaceutical industry leapt up to meet the challenge of developing a vaccine to combat a global pandemic, its partners in the supply chain had to keep in step. Yann Martin, global sales director of isothermal solutions supplier EMBALL’ISO, tells us how the company ramped up its operations to cope with the surge in demand.


rom March 2020, the pharmaceutical industry went into overdrive. Faced with a global pandemic, it had to pivot huge resources into developing diagnostics tests and, ultimately, vaccines to track, trace and prevent the spread of Covid-19. This enormous effort had ramifications throughout the supply chain. Developing, testing and trailing a new vaccine needed across the globe demanded a huge amount of resources and equipment, and without the right packaging and logistics solutions those efforts would have been held back, with potentially dire consequences. “From early 2020, there was a huge surge in demand from companies running clinical trials to develop a vaccine, so we needed to supply a lot of equipment to maintain the cold chain on a drastically reduced time frame,” says Yann Martin, global sales director of EMBALL’ISO. “Then, later with vaccine distribution, it was a real challenge to scale up.” EMBALL’ISO is a market leader in the design and manufacture of high-performance temperature-controlled packaging systems for the transport of pharmaceuticals. Its packaging solutions can maintain stable temperature ranges between -80°C and +37°C, thanks to thermal stabilisers based on gels and phase change material (PCM). In the 30 years that it has been supporting pharmaceutical laboratories, clinical trial operators, logistics companies and last mile specialists in managing and controlling cold chain risks, the company has never experienced anything on the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic. In mid-2020, it suddenly saw demand skyrocket to more than 30 times the monthly pre-pandemic volume. “Working under Covid restrictions ourselves, we had to provide the same quality in much larger volumes in a very short time,” remarks Martin. “Fortunately, we have a product design that we can manufacture with equipment selected to be available worldwide and, with eight production centres across the world, we


EMBALL’ISO is a market leader in the design and manufacture of high-performance temperature- controlled packaging systems for pharmaceuticals.

were able to mitigate risks by using different sites when local restrictions changed.”

Reduce, recycle, reuse Had EMBALL’ISO had one central production facility, its ability to supply a global market would have been at risk. Fortunately, it has a presence on four continents, with production sites in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Singapore, the UK and US. That allowed it to handle the huge volume of demand for vaccine trials and distribution while supporting existing clients in other key areas, such as oncology and diagnostics. Scale and adaptability, however, are not the only strengths that EMBALL’ISO brings to the table. Its innovative packaging design allows not only tight control of temperature ranges throughout the cold chain, but also enables reuse. The company’s reverse logistics capability and a network of collection points in more than 80 countries helps customers to save time and money by reusing its specialist isothermal packaging. “Our reuse networks have been in operation for a long time,” Martin explains. “The collection and reuse model are very successful because the packaging is not

thrown away, which helps to maintain both quality and availability. It also helps us to scale up very fast because we are always monitoring the global flows of our units.” EMBALL’ISO’s packaging solutions can be used to carry a single vial or can be supplied in fully assembled or flat-packed pallets for larger consignments. The underlying concept is to marry high performance with cost-efficiency and sustainability. “The lightweight and flat-packable solutions take up less space for reverse and reuse, so there is a reduction in cost and carbon emissions from airfreight shipment and sea freight return,” Martin says. “When the company was started, the underlying concept was to develop the first flat-pack isothermal packaging that would be more compact and easier to dismantle. Very light packaging solutions improve sustainability, which is increasingly a factor of choice in the discussions we have with our clients.” As well as the virologists and researchers who have worked tirelessly, the successful rollout of Covid-19 vaccines owes much to the versatility and scalability of logistics providers like EMBALL’ISO. ● World Pharmaceutical Frontiers /

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