From the agricultural to the health sector, an enormous quantity of commodities moves through supply chains. But as these agricultural goods, medicines, or health commodities travel all the way from manufacturer to patient, how can we continuously monitor their temperature and conditions to maintain their quality and effectiveness? This is particularly vital in the health sector. How will we know if a critical lifesaving medicine has exceeded its temperature limit and be rendered less effective for the patients who need them?
Although occasional temperature and humidity monitoring of ambient products is conducted at the central, regional, and district-level warehouses in developing countries, continuous monitoring along in-country transport, during storage facilities, and throughout last-mile distribution by community health workers is limited. However, the costs of not having this type of visibility are even higher: It is estimated that the losses associated with temperature excursions in the health industry amount to $35 billion per year. The World Health Organization has established good distribution practices for pharmaceutical products, including having defined intervals for checking temperature with records of data available for review, but even this is limited along many global health supply chains due to a lack of visibility across the supply chain and the appropriate resources for monitoring and analysis.
Through the USAID Global Health Supply Chain-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project, we know that in global supply chain management, data collection and subsequent use of this data for decision-making continues to be a driving force in creating more effective, impactful, and efficient global supply chains. So how can we effectively capture temperature and humidity data more consistently across the supply chain?
Before we can begin to think about solutions, we first need to understand the commodities themselves. Here’s what we know:
- All products have temperature and humidity limits.
- Absence of monitoring systems creates minimal visibility.
- There are many different types of products.
- Many storage locations are throughout the supply chain with differing conditions.
- Products are often transported with no climate control.
- There’s a focus in developing countries on central warehousing conditions but less on storage facilities at regional or district levels.
- Industry guidance from WHO, USP, and others exists (as we referenced above) but isn’t always followed.