Temperature-sensitive medications and perishable products have specific requirements for temperature control during shipping. Certain pharmaceuticals lose their effectiveness with as little as two degrees of temperature variation. Fresh foods like seafood and produce can spoil and make customers sick if they become warm.  Because of these factors, items are often shipped via costly overnight services. The high cost of next-day transit over longer shipping durations is the premium paid for the absolute minimum time en route. However, with the advent of well-engineered thermal packaging designs, cold chain shipments can endure extended shipping times, resulting in significant cost savings and supply chain flexibility while maintaining the proper temperature and reducing waste and pollutants.

Insulated shipping box with fresh produce inside.
A well-designed packaging containing insulation and cold sources are needed to keep foods fresh during mail-order shipping.

Current tradeoffs for longer a cold chain 

Current methods of attempting to extend shipping times from next day to 2nd day can have harmful side effects on the temperature-sensitive and perishable products inside. For instance, adding additional cold sources such as frozen gel packs or dry ice can cause products to reach harmful freezing temperatures. They also add extra weight to the package, which increases shipping costs and waste. Adding more packaging components reduces the internal payload volume, forcing shippers to invest in larger boxes. Not only will these larger boxes cost more to ship, but thermal performance will be reduced due to a larger surface area.  Doubling the amount of ice will require a larger box; however, the increase in surface area allows for only 30% of the additional ice to contribute to extending the cold chain shipping duration.

Better design leads to cumulative savings

Advanced thermal packaging design solves a host of issues encountered by shippers of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals, perishable produce, meat, meal kits, or fresh pet food.  It is possible to reduce the cost of shipping packages by over 50% by eliminating the need for expensive overnight shipments.  Significant savings are also achieved with the use of a multi-day thermal package, allowing the shipper greater flexibility within the distribution chain. Instead of needing to fulfill an order and ship it on the same day, the order can be pre-packed and shipped the following day. Therefore, allowing for better utilization of the packer’s workflow and greater adaptability in securing off-peak shipping capacity. Packages that are designed to remain cool longer have seen a reduced rate of customer returns. If the optimized shipment arrives late or is opened late by the receiver, the cold payload is often still viable.

To achieve additional cost savings while delivering safe cold chain products, the thermal packaging, and pack-out design need to be fully optimized. The packaging components used for two- or three-day transit times must be strategically utilized. Optimization of the thermal capacity and components should allow for small external dimensions while providing an ample payload capacity. A smaller box equates to lower component costs, reduced waste, and lower shipping costs. 

Lower carbon and pollutant footprint

Reduced costs and improved temperature control offered by advanced thermal packaging designs are not the only benefits. Removing the need for overnight airplane delivery methods minimizes the overall carbon footprint of each package. Air transportation is one of the worst transportation methods for the environment per pound of cargo moved. Using thermal packages that permit two- or three-day shipping times considerably eliminates the need for air transit, allowing the use of other ground-based options such as over-the-road trucking, which fares far better for reducing emissions.

Scientists in lab coats conduct thermal packaging tests.
A well designed and optimized thermal package will reduce shipping costs and can use the latest in TTx thermal materials.

Illuminate’s TTx inserts and cold chain expertise can help

A simple way to thermally extend the safe transit time of a shipper’s current pack-out is the use of Illuminate’s TTx thermal packaging solutions. The patented inserts extend the temperature protection duration by up to 40% for cold chain shipments. Through the use of two- or three-day shipping methods, TTx can reduce the shipping costs by 48% while offering 96% lower total emissions throughout the transportation process. In addition, TTx provides uniform temperature distribution while being able to handle extreme conditions such as cryogenic payloads. 

With over 35 years of cold chain expertise, The Illuminate Group is here to help you design and optimize your thermal packaging solutions. We can help reduce your shipping costs, provide added supply chain flexibility, lower your impact on the environment, and use the latest in thermal materials.  Please contact us today for more information and learn more about how we can help you improve your temperature-sensitive shipping packages.