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Advanced visibility for the life science supply chain

Controlant’s real-time supply chain monitoring and visibility technologies are specifically geared to the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors and emerged as a key cold chain solution for the COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has really shed light on the importance of a robust, efficient, quick, sustainable and cost-effective pharma supply chain. In record time, the global pharma industry managed to discover and develop vaccines, but this was not the only challenge on the agenda. The next steps were, and still are, to produce and distribute vaccines to a global population of around seven billion people.

“The company has helped ensure the successful delivery of more than 5.7 billion Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses to over 185 countries.”

Part of the solution came from a small country in the North. Icelandic company Controlant emerged as one of the key players in the global quest to deliver mRNA vaccines, vaccines that, due to the delicate constitution of their lipid nanoparticles, require ultra-low-temperature freezing between -80°C and -60°C. The company entered a partnership with Pfizer in 2020 to provide monitoring services as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is delivered all around the world. Since then, the company has helped ensure the successful delivery of more than 5.7 billion Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses to over 185 countries.

“The U.S. government officially launched ‘Operation Warp Speed’ in May 2020 to set targets for and coordinate the production and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. Controlant has worked directly with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other Operation Warp Speed agency partners to help ensure the availability of COVID-19 vaccines to the American public,” says Adalheidur Palmadottir, VP Business Development at Controlant.

Real-time supply chain monitoring

Controlant was founded in 2007 by Erlingur Brynjulfsson, Gisli Herjolfsson, Trausti Thormundsson and the late Stefan Karlsson. The quartet set out to improve product quality, safety, and sustainability of the supply chain, and has since been a pioneer of real-time supply chain monitoring. The company’s Cold Chain as a Service (ChaaS) solutions digitize and automate supply chains. With data from IoT-enabled reusable loggers sent to the cloud over cellular networks in real time, stakeholders can mitigate any negative impact and prevent waste. The company’s solution is specifically geared to areas such as pharmaceuticals and life sciences, industries that require manufacturers to maintain strict visibility and control over their entire supply chain, from manufacture to the last mile, to sufficiently ensure patient safety.

The combination of IoT, cloud-enabled analytics, API connectivity, and advanced operational services, enables customers to automate their business processes and optimize communication through technology, while paying only for the shipments or products they track. The solution also includes a variety of managed and professional services, including reverse device logistics and 24/7 monitoring and response, driving growth and profitability.

Every year, up to 35 percent of the world’s vaccines degrade due to temperature excursions. Supply chain waste due to spoiled products is very costly, and when it comes to pharmaceutical products, this cost is measured both in dollars and in health. “Our solutions significantly reduce supply chain waste. In the case of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, this waste was reduced to nearly zero (< 0.1%),” says Palmadottir.

 

Controlant IoT devices that are packed with the vaccine shipments, capture environmental information, including time, temperature and light events, and send the information, in real time, to Controlant’s platform.

 

Scale-up lessons

In September 2020 Controlant secured 15 million USD in Series B funding to drive the market expansion of its real-time ChaaS platform. In their results from 2021, the company reported a tenfold increase in revenue, amounting to 68.3 million USD, and reported an increased interest from international investors. The company has also received several prestigious awards, for example a special recognition at the recent Nordic Scaleup Awards in June this year.

“The markers of our success as a scale-up are clear. We’ve achieved global reach in a growing market, we’ve scaled up both vertically and horizontally, and we operate while protecting the environment and supporting global sustainability efforts,” says Gisli Herjolfsson, CEO Controlant. “Behind Controlant’s impressive four-digit year-on-year growth is the ongoing journey of a groundbreaking solution and the ambitious vision of a diverse team.”

“Lessons learnt during the process of scaling-up and developing Controlant are for example how critical it is to be committed to your product, to stay focused on your mission, to surround yourself with smart, dedicated people, and to be proactive, flexible, and optimistic about growth.”

Lessons learnt during the process of scaling-up and developing Controlant are for example how critical it is to be committed to your product, to stay focused on your mission, to surround yourself with smart, dedicated people, and to be proactive, flexible, and optimistic about growth, according to Herjolfsson. “It’s easier to scale-up quickly using built-in agility than to wait until demand comes knocking,” he says.

Being an Icelandic company during the start-up phase gave Controlant the advantage of being a big fish in a small pond. When the country needed to distribute vaccines for the Swine Flu a full decade before the COVID-19 pandemic, the national health authority approached Controlant because it was easily identified as the most viable option.

”Our people are our business.”

As the company expanded, its solutions became competitive on the global stage. Scaling up presented challenges such as recruitment, and as the company continues to grow, recruitment remains a significant growth challenge.  “We work very hard to attract and retain top talent because that is key to our success,” says Herjolfsson. ”Our people are our business.”

 

Gisli Herjolfsson, CEO, Controlant

 

True end-to-end monitoring

Moving forward the team continues on its mission to improve product quality and safety in the supply chain, as well as reduce cold chain waste. The increasing population is straining global logistics and the supply chain as a whole. Greater and greater demand means sourcing more raw materials, constantly ramping up production, and moving and delivering more products to more destinations. That’s prompting an increasing premium on space and time.

“The days of loggers that need any manual inspection are numbered. Controlant is working on a solution that goes even further towards addressing this challenge, as well as getting us a step closer to true end-to-end monitoring,” explains Adalheidur Palmadottir.

“In order to face current global challenges within the pharma supply chain, there need to be a greater collaboration between suppliers, manufacturers, LSPs, carriers, governments, and healthcare facilities.”

In order to face current global challenges within the pharma supply chain, there need to be a greater collaboration between suppliers, manufacturers, LSPs, carriers, governments, and healthcare facilities, the Controlant team believes.

“Resilience is key, including the global pharma supply chain’s need to adapt to the emerging post-Covid supply chain ecosystem, and to be in a constant state of readiness for continued disruptions, such as outbreaks of new Covid variants,” concludes Palmadottir.

Featured photo of Adalheidur Palmadottir, VP Business Development at Controlant.