In the first half of 2012, 20 percent of Panalpina’s air cargo moved on its own Luxembourg-Huntsville route was temperature-controlled. Panalpina’s own controlled air freight network puts the company in a unique position when it comes to temperature sensitive cargo. “We are much closer to the cargo. We control aircraft on specific routes, and we design and oversee processes on the ground. Therefore, we have the best possible control from door-to-door,” explained Matthias Frey, who heads Panalpina’s own controlled air freight network.
As part of the PanCool initiative, in the past few years Panalpina has established a door-to-door proactive monitoring, control and documentation system for temperature sensitive cargo. Panalpina’s new flagships, the two wet-leased Boeing 747-8 Freighters, mark the latest and apparent investment in building a global state-of-the-art cool chain network. The Panalpina aircraft, dubbed Cool Planes by the company, can maintain different temperature ranges at the same time: For example, one for 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (cold chain) and one for 15 to 25 degrees Celsius (controlled room temperature).
“We’ve invested heavily in technology, equipment and training of staff. We listened very closely to our customers and turned their recommendations into workable and auditable processes. And we’ve gained a lot of experience with thousands of temperature-controlled shipments,” said Thomas Berger, Panalpina’s Global Head of Industry Vertical Healthcare. “All this has helped us to achieve very stable and reliable results, but it is also part of the explanation why every fifth kilogram moved on specific Panalpina routes is temperature sensitive cargo.”
The vast bulk of this cargo is shipped by the healthcare industry, but growing demand for temperature-controlled shipping can also be observed in other industries. The products being moved in temperature-controlled environments include pharmaceuticals, chemical pre-products, dangerous and hazardous substances, high-tech wafers, printing machines and test or prototype automobiles, among many others.
Panalpina has built up profound cool chain know-how. Since the introduction of SmartView, the global provider of supply chain solutions has monitored and documented over 3,000 temperature-controlled shipments. SmartView is a RFID (radio-frequency identification) based temperature control system, an award-winning solution for cool chain optimization. Panalpina uses it within its own controlled air freight network. The cool chain solution provides an integrated control center to manage temperature sensitive shipments end-to-end throughout the supply chain. Temperatures can be documented in the air, and actively monitored in the transit warehouse and on the road. In case of undesired temperature deviations, Panalpina can intervene.
The active RFID sensors of the SmartView system are attached to the shipments where they record the environment temperature every 15 minutes. For security reasons, recorded data is not immediately transmitted to the central database during flight. The radio signals may otherwise interfere with the aircraft’s technical systems. But as soon as the cargo is unloaded at the airport and in reach of a router, the data is automatically transmitted and fed into the database. Panalpina’s routers are typically located in the transit warehouses of airports. The same type of RFID sensors also monitor the environment temperature of designated cool cells in such Panalpina facilities – again at 15 minute intervals and around the clock.
If desired, temperature monitoring of air cargo is expanded to road transport in pre- and on-carriage. “The customers of our own controlled air freight network decide what they need. If they need end-to-end monitoring we will provide it,” said Daniel Lutz who is in charge of Panalpina’s Luxembourg hub operations. In road transport, Panalpina combines active RFID technology with GPRS and GPS technology to fulfill any additional monitoring requirements, be that for relative humidity, shock and light exposure, air pressure or location.
Panalpina first introduced SmartView at its air freight hub in Luxembourg in November 2009. The hub is also officially GDP (Good Distribution Practice) certified since June 2010. In the meantime, Panalpina has equipped six more airport facilities with SmartView technology. The growing demand for temperature-controlled shipping and Panalpina’s success therein calls for further network extensions. Panalpina is constantly upgrading its strategic facilities with the technology. “Pudong in Shanghai, Viracopos in São Paulo and Dubai World Central are just a few of the airport facilities high up on our priority list,” said Matthias Frey.
Panalpina is also working on a solution to make the temperature monitoring of individual shipments directly accessible to its customers: “The integration of the SmartView technology into our IT platforms is a crucial part of our PanCool initiative. The data is there in abundance and we have access to it globally via special website. In the near future, our customers will be able to access this information directly via our track and trace tool PanTrace. This way, our customers get live end-to-end visibility for their temperature-controlled shipments – anytime, anywhere,” added Frey.