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Shipping Time- and Temperature-Sensitive Life Sciences Products

When you ship sensitive life sciences products, the utmost care is necessary at every stage of the journey from the manufacturer to the patient. In this QAD Precision Report we look at the challenges of shipping time- and temperature-sensitive products.

The Challenges of Life Sciences Logistics 

Life sciences companies face considerable challenges when shipping their goods around the world. Not only must they comply with stringent regulations, their products have a direct impact on the health and well-being of people — and, in some cases, can mean the difference between life or death. 

Furthermore, life sciences companies often ship products that are delicate, time- and temperature-sensitive, or regarded as hazardous. Pharmaceutical products that are improperly shipped or incorrectly handled may be ineffective — or, worse still, actively harmful. Consequently, the importance of ensuring that goods arrive on time and in perfect condition is exponentially greater for life sciences companies than for many other shippers.

Sensitive Products = Shipping Challenges

Certain pharmaceutical products require uninterrupted refrigeration as they travel from manufacturer to patient. This is “cold chain” transportation. Other products must remain at controlled room temperature or be shipped at extremely low cryogenic temperatures.

In addition to temperature, life sciences products may react to other environmental factors, such as humidity or sunlight. Likewise, some are sensitive to shocks and vibrations — both risks during transportation.

Furthermore, certain therapeutic agents have short half lives — in some cases, so short that the half life is measured in days, not months or years. As a result, these products must reach patients within tight timeframes. Shipping delays could therefore render these much needed treatments ineffective.

As life sciences products travel from the manufacturer to the wholesaler, hospital, clinic, chemist and on to the patient, they may pass through a number of different hands. Therefore, ensuring that goods are properly handled, stored and transported at every stage is critical. 

Six Steps for Life Sciences Shipping


The first crucial step to ensuring that life sciences products reach patients in perfect condition, no matter where they are, is establishing a compliance program. When your organization works across multiple geographies and regulatory environments, your export procedures must comply with a number of different regulatory environments. This, in turn, increases the risk of compliance violations. 

Ideally, life sciences companies (and other global shippers) should aim to reduce or eliminate manual compliance checks. These are subject to errors, especially as they may require regulatory interpretation. Item and material codes can be easily matched to regulation, license, and corporate policy databases to automatically check compliance requirements.

By leveraging automated compliance checks at the start of the export process, life sciences companies can vet every export, check trading partners against governmental and international lists of denied parties, confirm that they are authorized to receive the shipment, ensure all permits and licences are in order, and mitigate the risk of compliance missteps.


Manually creating all the paperwork needed to complete a shipment is not only time consuming, it is subject to error. Incomplete paperwork and documentation can result in customs hold-ups. When products are time-sensitive or require special handling, a customs hold-up can result in rendering treatments ineffective. By automating export documentation production, life sciences companies can ensure that all the documentation necessary to complete a shipment is complete and correct. This includes documentation for specialist life sciences products, as well as dangerous goods or controlled substances.


The correct and appropriate packaging is crucial for life sciences products. Active or smart packaging that regulates temperature or measures environmental conditions are certainly necessary for some products. But it would be unnecessary — not to mention exorbitantly expensive — to package all temperature-sensitive products this way. Therefore, if goods can be safely transported with conventional packaging, along with temperature regulation materials, such as dry ice or gel packs, it makes better sense to do so. 


The appropriate packaging is only one part of the equation. All life sciences shipments should include clear and specific instructions regarding handling, temperature sensitivity and other risks that could compromise life sciences products. 


All the instructions in the world won’t matter if you do not have the right transportation partners. Not all carriers are capable of transporting life sciences products, or offer specialized handling, such as cold-chain or hospital delivery services. Whether you deliver direct-to-patient in large metropolitan cities, or to remote clinics serving tiny rural populations, you need global carrier coverage with transportation partners who have the correct capabilities, routes and service levels as well as experience to ensure your products arrive on time.


Last, but not least, life sciences companies benefit from intelligent, post-dock visibility into all shipments as they move through the carrier network and onto the final recipient. A centralized portal for multi carrier and global package tracking will enable life sciences companies to track all shipments, anywhere in the world, in exactly the same way. Ideally, this should allow you to manage by exception to proactively resolve problem shipments, as well as capture proof of delivery capture and leverage chain of custody controls.

Life sciences products must be shipped with care and attention. Products rendered ineffective or harmful through incorrect shipping or handling can have serious consequences for patients, as well as tarnish the good name of, and public confidence in, a life sciences company. When you ship time and temperature-sensitive medical products, they deserve the most stringent oversight.

Global Trade Management For Life Sciences: Join Our Webinar

Are you ready for the future of life sciences shipping? The increasing importance of emerging markets, new treatments such as biologics, patient-centric approaches and direct-to-patient deliveries as well as changes to the regulatory environment all create shipping challenges for life sciences companies. 

Join us on July 18, 2019 at 11 a.m. CDT as we discuss key challenges life sciences companies face such as managing sourcing complexity and addressing global complexities —  imports and exports to name a few. To register for the webinar, please click here.

About QAD Precision – Trusted Global Trade and Transportation Execution

QAD Precision (Precision Software), a division of QAD Inc., provides industry-leading global trade management, transportation execution and multi carrier shipping software solutions from a single, integrated platform. Preeminent industry leaders in every region of the world rely on QAD Precision’s global support centers to leverage thousands of carriers and manage millions of shipping transactions every day. Our open architecture easily integrates with Enterprise Resource Planning, Warehouse Management Systems and legacy solutions. An ISO-certified company, QAD Precision assists companies to minimize shipping costs, optimize first mile and last mile deliveries, automate free trade agreement compliance, avoid customs delays and mitigate the risks associated with dynamic trading environments to maximize their competitive advantage. QAD Precision’s customers span multiple industries including banking and finance, life sciences, high technology, retail, industrial, automotive, higher education and public sector as well as logistics providers. For more information about QAD Precision, visit www.qadprecision.com.


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