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Sofrigam’s guide on preparing cold chain shipments

news-releasesSofrigam S.A
July 19th 2017

Rueil-Malmaison, France: – Temperature-controlled logistics and pharmaceutical cold chain specialist Sofrigam SA has released a useful ‘how to’ guide on preparing packages for cold chain shipment.

In its latest blog, Sofrigam points out that correct configuration of the package plays a key role in avoiding the temperature fluctuations that can damage the integrity of shipped heat-sensitive products.

“The preparation protocol of an insulated packaging solution must be followed to the letter,” declares Sofrigam, before going on to show how ensuring true temperature stability can only be ensured by closely following a set of preparation procedures for each insulated packaging solution. These cover variables such as configuration according to ‘seasonal’ profiles, preparation of eutectic plates, and physical loading.

Rule One: read the manual

The starting point when preparing and loading any insulated packaging solution is to read and understand the preparation guidelines provided by the packaging manufacturer. These will cover eutectic gel freezing and stabilisation times, internal payload configuration, loading procedures, etc., which are all designed to avoid any temperature fluctuations and over-chilling the consignment, “These precautions help to ensure the transported products are stored correctly and avoid any risk of cold peaks,” says Sofrigam.

However, to ensure a perfectly stable storage temperature, the packaging solution must be prepared according to the external temperature conditions.

Seasonal profiles

“A packaging solution subject to negative external temperatures will not be prepared in the same way as a packaging solution shipped under hot logistical segments,” Sofrigam points out, explaining that insulated packaging should be prepared according to three different configurations: summer profile, winter profile and intermediate (mid-season) profile, depending on the external temperatures to which the packaging solution will be subjected to during shipment.

Sofrigam’s seasonal configurations are designed to comply with 7E standards of the International Safe Transport Association (ISTA) and the NF S99-700 guidelines of the French Association for Standardization (AFNOR). Both bodies define a range of temperature profiles that follow basic ‘summer’ or ’winter’ environments with further variations defined by destination; Mediterranean, Continental, Northern, etc.), along with total time in transport, from 24 to 144 hours. Based on these, Sofrigam defines three basic profiles:

  • Summer Configuration: corresponds to an average external temperature of more than +18 °C
  • Mid-season (intermediate) Configuration: corresponds to an average external temperature of between +8 °C and +18 °C
  • Winter Configuration: corresponds to an average external temperature of less than +8 °C

Preparing eutectic packs

The choice of seasonal profile will shape how the package is configured and loaded, particularly with respect to preparation of eutectic gel cooling packs.

  • For hot profiles: the eutectic packs are frozen at a temperature below -10 °C and in some cases further stabilized at -2 °C or left at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1hour
  • For cold profiles: the eutectic packs are stabilized in a cold chamber at +5 °C
  • For mid-season profiles: the solution will combine frozen eutectic packs and others stabilized at +5 °

Care in loading

However, the eutectic packs are not the only factor responsible for maintaining correct temperature in the packaging solution and avoiding risks of excessive hot or cold temperature fluctuations. Loading procedure is also very important.

“In the summer configuration, for example, if the eutectic packs are loaded directly into the packaging solution at -2°C, they must not be placed in direct contact with the products. You must insert separation plates in the packaging solution to avoid any risk of the products freezing,” Sofrigam warns.

Sofrigam recommends positioning the eutectic packs in the insulated packaging solution to form a ‘sandwich’ above and below the products or to form an ‘igloo’ surrounding them.

Matching package to payload

Lastly, to maintain claimed packaging performances, it is also necessary to bear in mind the payload for which the insulated packaging solution was designed.

“If there is no cardboard grouping provided with the packaging solution to insert the products for transportation, take care to respect the height of the product or fill the empty space with cushioning materials,” cautions Sofrigam.

“The insulated packaging solution functions according to a complex heat exchange and air circulation process thoroughly studied by heating engineers. A single modification in the positioning of the eutectic packs in the packaging solution can alter the overall performance of the packaging solution,” Sofrigam points out.

About Sofrigam

French-based Sofrigam S.A. designs and manufactures cool chain pharmaceutical shipping solutions and insulated boxes for the life sciences industries as well as for distribution and logistics companies.

The company was founded in 1979 by an industrial pharmacist and initially developed eutectic painkillers before specializing in the design and manufacture of insulated and refrigerated packaging, including pre-qualified insulated shipping and temperature management solutions. The company is headquartered in Ile-de-France with a production site at Arras.

Sofrigam offer solutions for the cold chain logistic problems experienced by the pharmaceutical industry. It offers a range of standard and made-to-measure thermal packaging products as well as customized services designed to achieve secure, cost effective and ecological cold chain logistics.

Sofrigam has become one of Europe’s leading cold chain specialists, sharing its expertise via seminars, publications and R&D collaborations. It also offers customized products and services designed to achieve cold logistics that are secure, cost-effective and comprehensively compliant.

Sofrigam partners with Ater Métrologie, a French-based ISTA and ISO 9001 certified laboratory that specializes in testing, validating and pre-qualifying temperature-controlled packaging and cooling systems. The laboratory carries out some 2,000 tests each year.

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