The HDPE shipper also requires less space in freezers, refrigerators, warehouses, and trucks than traditional models do. Conventional
insulated shippers take 35 min to pack because they rely on frozen or chilled gel packs and require a detailed packing protocol
that often varies with the season. In contrast, personnel can pack the new shipper in 5 min. The corrugated HDPE shipper also
eliminates waste because it can be returned to Coldchain. The company recycles components when they are no longer usable.
As a result, "We've seen tremendous time savings, cost savings, and customer satisfaction across the board," says Williams.
He estimates that Coldchain Technologies achieves a return on its investment in six trips, even though the initial cost of
the reusable system is about six times more than that of a traditional foam-based insulated shipper. "It's an easy transition,"
he adds. "We were comfortable adopting the technology" because of Entropy's arduous testing program, which included temperature
mapping and independent verification of results.
A container's shipment cycle
Coldchain ships boxes of vaccine to its medical group customer by ground. Shipments generally arrive at their destination
by 10:30 in the morning, and the boxes include return labels. After recipients unpack the boxes, they label them and set them
out for pickup that afternoon. A box's round trip takes three to five days, including a day or two in ground transit on each
end. Transit time lasts one or two weeks if boxes transport vaccines to mobile clinics before they are returned.
A reusable shipper combines a high-density polyethylene corrugated box, insulating panels, and color-coded biodegradable phase-change
material to protect temperature-sensitive products for five days.
The medical customer's mobile teams like the boxes because they are easy to use and eliminate the need to haul a refrigerator.
When a team returns from a mobile clinic, "they put the vaccine and phase-change material in the refrigerator for overnight
storage, repack the box, and return to the field the next day," says Williams.
When empty boxes return to Coldchain, employees wipe down their outer surfaces, inspect their interior components, and recharge
phase-change material in a freezer or refrigerator. "We can turn around boxes in 12 h compared with at least 24 h for gel-pack
systems, which require a longer conditioning time," reports Williams.
FedEx adopted AcuTemps "AX2100L" compressor-driven air cargo container for its "Custom Critical" and "Express services."
"We've had zero issues with shipments, even in situations where boxes were misdirected or misplaced during distribution,"
he says. One shipment took nine days to arrive at an Arkansas clinic because of delivery missteps before and after a holiday
weekend. When the recipients unpacked the box, they discovered that the contents were undamaged. The loss of $12,000 worth
of vaccines had been prevented. "No foam shipper would have been able to manage that," claims Williams.
To ensure that optimal conditions are maintained in transit, each of Coldchain's shipments carries a freeze indicator and
a label that changes color if temperatures rise above a preset threshold. Shipments also include instructions to call an 800
number if either temperature indicator is activated.
Millions of dollars worth of vaccines are lost each year or rendered ineffective because they expire before reaching patients.
Reusable insulated-shipper technology can help prevent this problem. Because the packing protocol for the Greenbox is so easy,
a facility with an oversupply of vaccine that will expire soon can quickly send it to a facility that can use it immediately.
"This really hasn't been possible before," says Williams. "The [savings] potential here is huge," he concludes.