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How va-Q-tec and cargo-partner secure the pharma cold chain

Cool Cooperation

The transport of pharmaceutical products requires high logistical quality standards and often necessitates special technologies for temperature and humidity control. cargo-partner uses the innovative products of va-Q-tec to secure an unbroken cold chain. Nearly one year ago, the cooperation partners opened a TempChain Service Center near Vienna Airport where sophisticated cooling and packaging solutions are assembled for customers. We took the occasion to talk to va-Q-tec about challenges in cold chain logistics.

va-Q-tec is a leading provider of innovative products and solutions in the area of thermal insulation and cold chain logistics. The German company develops, produces and distributes highly efficient and thus thin vacuum insulation panels (‘VIPs’) as well as thermal energy storage components (Phase Change Materials, ‘PCMs’) for reliable and energy-efficient temperature control. The company’s products are used in the transport of pharmaceutical products, in refrigeration and freezer appliances, buildings, technology and industry as well as in automobiles and aircrafts.

cargo-partner uses va-Q-tec’s innovative solutions to ensure the highest quality standards in the transport of pharmaceutical products. In addition, the two companies have been running a TempChain Service Center at cargo-partner’s headquarters near Vienna Airport since spring 2018. We talked to Christopher  Storch, Global Head of Sales at va-Q-tec, about current trends in the cold chain industry.

“Unexpected delays are always challenging, whether it’s due to the consequences of Brexit or other delays, e.g. in customs processing. va-Q-tec’s passive thermal packaging can keep temperatures constant for 120 hours and more. This very long performance time without an external energy supply is possible due to the quality and technology of our products, and this is something which no other solution can offer.”

Christopher Storch, Global Head of Sales at va-Q-tec


Interviewer: va-Q-tec is a world leader in the area of thermal transport containers. In addition to selling your products, you also offer the option of renting them. How many transport units are in use worldwide?

Christopher Storch: va-Q-tec developed its first thermobox with vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) as early as 2003. In 2004, the first passive thermal container came on the market. Since then, our thermal packaging portfolio has been continuously expanded. In 2011, the business model was extended to include rental solutions. Today, our global container fleet encompasses approximately 2,000 units. In the meantime, va-Q-tec has in 2018 built a fleet of 100.000 boxes for rental and sale.

Since spring 2018, cargo-partner is an official cooperation partner of va-Q-tec with an own network station maintaining up to 150 containers of different types at the company headquarters near Vienna Airport. How satisfied are you with the cooperation, and has this network structure proven to be useful for va-Q-tec?

va-Q-tec is very satisfied with cargo-partner and we were delighted to inaugurate the network station – we call them TempChain Service Centers (TSC) – in Vienna in May 2018. There are 27 of these TSCs worldwide, which are maintained partly by va-Q-tec and partly by our logistics partners. This network enables us to provide any destination in the world with a preconditioned container or box within short time.

Will the technology developed by va-Q-tec eventually drive established insulation providers out of the market, or is your high-tech development in relation to competing products also a matter of costs, following the principle: “less efficient material, but cheaper to produce”?

Vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) are used wherever there is very little space for insulation or if space is very expensive. For instance, historical buildings or expensive constructions in inner cities are insulated with VIPs. In transport logistics, we can see a clear trend towards high-performance solutions with VIPs and PCMs (Phase Change Materials).

With the impending and possibly ‘hard’ Brexit, Europe could suddenly experience grave delays in the processing of transports and customs formalities. Could these longer waiting times become a problem in the transport of temperature-sensitive goods?

Unexpected delays are always challenging in the supply chain, whether it’s due to the consequences of Brexit or other delays, e.g. in customs processing. va-Q-tec’s passive thermo packaging can keep temperatures constant for 120 hours and more. This very long performance time without an external energy supply is possible due to the quality and technology of our products, and this is something which no other solution can offer.

In western countries, whether it’s in the transport of foodstuffs of pharmaceuticals, there is a high percentage of consistent cold chains being implemented, with a correspondingly low ‘loss of goods’. In emerging countries, however, the infrastructure is often too poorly developed. How much potential do you see for your products in these growth markets?

GDP regulations are growing increasingly strict everywhere in the world, including in emerging countries. There is a big challenge to implement these regulations in these countries’ infrastructures which indeed are not sufficiently developed. Transports take longer due to bad roads or chaotic traffic conditions, destinations are difficult to reach or can only be reached intermittently. This is why va-Q-tec has developed a comprehensive product portfolio of disposable and reusable passive solutions. This way, we can provide our customers with suitable packaging solutions for any transport worldwide.

What is the average service life of a container equipped with your thermal packs? Does the material wear out after a certain number of applications?

va-Q-tec has constructed its packaging systems in such a way that all components can be exchanged individually. In addition, with our patented va-Q-check measuring system, we are the only company worldwide who is capable of reliably examining VIPs in regard to damages. This means that if parts of boxes or containers are broken, or if the insulation or performance is no longer up to par, they are simply exchanged. You could compare it to an airplane: the fuselage might be ten years old while the whole interior and all the electronics have been renewed.

Your transport boxes and containers are most commonly used in the transport of temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical goods. Are there any other unconventional uses which people might not commonly associate with your products?

It is true that va-Q-tec makes most of its business with the pharmaceutical industry, mainly the transport of biotechnical products. However, other industries have a growing number of temperature-sensitive products as well, such as semiconductors or adhesives. The most uncommon items which are being transported with va-Q-tec’s solutions are probably works of art. Nearly all famous and highly valuable oil paintings have their own va-Q-tec box which protects them from climatic influences during transport and in which they could even withstand a fire.

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