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Global Logistics Company Monitors Shipments' Temperatures

Panalpina Group deployed an RFID solution to track the conditions of health-care and pharmaceutical products during transit or storage.
By Bob Violino
Oct 15, 2012—In early 2009, Panalpina Group, based in Switzerland, set out to identify a technology that would allow it to track temperature conditions during shipments of health-care and pharmaceutical products. Panalpina, one of the world's leading logistics companies, operates a global network consisting of some 500 branches throughout more than 80 countries. Many of its top customers need to ensure that the environments in which their products are stored and moved remain within specified temperature ranges.

"Some of these companies have basic requirements," says Daniel Lutz, the head of operations at Panalpina's Luxembourg hub, "and the first step we took was to define how we wanted to meet those requirements and live up to the very high-quality standards of companies in health care and pharmaceuticals."

Panalpina's air-freight hub in Luxembourg

Beyond the desire to provide better services to its health-care and pharmaceutical customers, Panalpina believes it has an obligation to do what it can to enable those organizations to provide better care to their clients. "The customers' patients' health is the utmost target" for improving services, Lutz says. The company, he adds, will undertake "whatever we can do to provide our customers with the best and safest possible transportation of their valuable goods."

According to Lutz, Panalpina's management sought to create a global, state-of-the-art "cool chain network" that would provide assurances to the health-care and pharmaceutical customers for which the company was doing its best to safeguard products in transit. In searching for a suitable tracking technology, Panalpina sought a solution that would allow it to proactively address temperature shifts in such environments as airplanes, trucks and warehouses.

Some of Panalpina's executives had seen a demonstration of an RFID-based solution that tracked the temperatures of strawberries shipped from Spain to Germany (see Strawberry Grower Deploys RFID to Fix Temperature Troubles). They saw no reason why RFID technology could not be used to monitor health-care products and medicines as well.

In November 2009, Panalpina worked with Ambient Systems to deploy its SmartView RFID-based temperature-control system at its air-freight hub in Luxembourg. The next installation, which took place during the first quarter of 2010, was at Panalpina's U.S. air-freight hub in Huntsville, Ala. Following that implementation, Panalpina equipped six additional airport facilities worldwide with the SmartView system.

Panalpina controls leased aircraft, or capacity on chartered planes traveling specific routes, and also designs and oversees processes on the ground, says Matthias Frey, the head of the company's controlled air-freight network. The firm reports that it can maintain different temperature ranges simultaneously. The RFID solution documents temperatures while products are in transit, in the warehouse or on the road.
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