Oriola expands its cold chain expertise to products in ultra-low temperature in Finland
In addition to normal cold chain products, Oriola’s distribution centre in Finland can now handle products in ultra-low temperature. Building in only a few months a capability to process a new kind of products in extreme conditions required extensive expertise and seamless cooperation.
In July 2022, Oriola won a tendering process for a warehousing and distributing agreement for products in ultra-low temperature for the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Ultra-low temperature products require warehousing in extreme cold conditions, between minus 90 °C and minus 60 °C, when normal cold chain products require temperature between 2-8 °C. The most familiar example of these products is Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, which the new agreement concerns.
“Pharmaceuticals in general are sensitive to external conditions, and therefore their handling requires deep knowhow and validated processes. The requirements for cold conditions have increased in recent years due to the growing number of special biomedicines, but there are many traditional medicinal products that need cold chain, for instance many vaccines and insulin for diabetes. Expanding our capability to ultra-low temperature products is further deepening our offering in cold chain, where we have extensive experience,” says Petri Boman, Chief Supply Chain Officer at Oriola.
Ready for the first shipment in two months
Pharmaceutical distribution comes with a great responsibility, as medicines need to be distributed safely and on time to ensure availability of high-quality products for patients. Building a capability to warehouse and distribute a new type of products is a detailed process, especially when products require extreme conditions.
“We had already started the preparations to handle ultra-low temperature products within the tendering process, but the project was truly kicked off in early August. We were ready to receive the first shipment in the beginning of October, which means we were able to build the capability to handle a totally new kind of product group in only a few months. Succeeding required seamless cooperation between all the teams involved, for example from supply chain operations, production planning, quality, customer service and IT,” says Boman.
In practice, the project covered creating processes for inbound, warehousing, thawing, and picking, as well as acquiring new freezers and building a new area for warehousing. The new freezers are based on cooling technology that uses advanced environmentally friendly refrigerant. Although the products are stored at ultra-low temperature, they will be distributed in the normal cold chain. Therefore, products are moved to a normal cold room for thawing before picking and distributing. All the phases were also tested and validated before the operations started.