DHL Global Forwarding rolls out Thermonet service, offering closer monitoring of cold chain shipments

RFID-based sensor combined with certified stations provides near real-time tracking of location and condition

At its global Health and Life Sciences meeting (Miami, June 11-14), the Bonn, Germany-based company unveiled a new service, branded as Thermonet, to track shipments. A new device developed internally, the SmartSensor, is attached to the exterior of packages entering Global Forwarding’s network. Readings taken from this sensor are uploaded into the company’s LifeTrack IT platform, which was developed originally by a subsidiary, LifeConEx; that IT platform will now be installed at 30 of the Global Forwarding Life Science Competence Centers, which have training and resources dedicated to life sciences shipments. The 30 stations will be expanded to 60 by the end of 2014, which represents over 90% of destinations typically used by the life sciences industry, according to Angelos Orfanos, president of the DHL life sciences business.

Thermonet is designed to monitor the ambient conditions of a shipment—so it is not a duplication of the sensors typically installed inside a pharma shipment to measure actual product conditions. (However, the company says that an optional “near product” monitoring can also occur; the difference would appear to be whether the client completes the packaging of a shipment, or hands it off to DHL to complete.) Besides providing closer monitoring of overall shipping conditions, the Thermonet service can be a foundation for clients seeking to monitor controlled room-temperature (CRT) shipments—a growing obligation of many regulators internationally who want to ensure that even non-cold-chain shipments have been kept in a required temperature range.

In a related development, LifeTrack will eventually be integrated into a new overall IT platform DHL is currently developing with SAP; DHL says that SAP’s Transportation Management System module (part of SAP’s enterprise-level software offerings) is being piloted within DHL right now, and will be rolled out over the next couple years.