Gone are the days of shipping a basic polystyrene container with a cold pack or dry ice. Though it was the standard less than 20 years ago, it feels like a relic of ancient history today. From phase change materials and vacuum insulated panels to sophisticated packaging walls, temperature sensors and GPS tracking, there's almost nothing that isn't changing in healthcare packaging these days. And that's because there's almost nothing that the healthcare industry isn't shipping.
Whether it's an ultra-low temperature vaccine or a specimen sample, packaging is protecting some of the most advanced and important products ever. It's also responsible for getting them to (and sometimes from) the most remote places on the globe—intact, at temperature and on time.
"The demands on packaging are not only complex, they're constantly evolving. Regulation requirements, quality and cost efficiencies are just the tip of the spear," says Ester Van den Bossche, senior manager of UPS Healthcare Cold Chain Packaging.
This changing landscape is motivated in large part by the growth of the pharmaceuticals industry, especially temperature-sensitive products. Worldwide, 27 of the top 50 selling drugs have temperature requirements and the cold chain packaging market alone is set to hit $46.9 Billion by 2031—a 15% growth over the next ten years according to a new report published in February 2022 by Future Market Insights.
"Our customers are looking to UPS Healthcare for state-of-the-art temperature-sensitive packaging and enhanced visibility solutions now more than ever before," says Van den Bossche. From track-and-trace products like UPS® Premier which upgrades small packages with advanced sensor technology for priority handling to consulting on packaging strategy that ensures effective thermal protection for critical healthcare shipments, UPS Healthcare is helping its partners keep up with demand and stay ahead of the curve.
That includes the changing expectations of customers and requirements of governments and regulators too. "We're getting calls from all sides to expand our sustainable packaging offerings. There has been a significant mindset change, especially in Europe but also in the United States, to provide more sustainable and circular options that are affordable and user-friendly," she says.
While fully biodegradable healthcare packaging that's made from materials like wool are starting to crop up, not all companies can find scale this way due to the current high cost of manufacturing these options.
"We're focused on providing different levels of solutions because sustainability doesn't have to be an all or nothing decision. Our goal is to help customers offset costs elsewhere along the chain so they can make eco-friendly choices with as little compromise as possible," says Van den Bossche.
One of the ways UPS Healthcare is supporting sustainable changes is through connected loop reusable packaging options. For example, containers stored at the Cold Chain Packaging Center in Louisville, Kentucky and in the European flagship in the Netherlands can be set to a number of temperatures, delivered to customers, returned, cleaned and reused when clients have another shipment.
"Whether it's small parcel, freight or warehouse, we've been supporting customers with expert advice and bespoke packaging solutions since 2011. We're ready for whatever they need next and any other trends driving our industry," she says.
UPS Healthcare can create customized packaging strategies to help improve quality, efficiency and sustainability along your chain. Request a call from a UPS Healthcare expert like Ester Van den Bossche to discuss the possibilities – no cost, no commitment.