As South Africa grapples with the legacies of the past and the challenges of the present, one of the ever present side effects is the repeated occurrence of load shedding. The causes are multifold and complex, but the outcome is that we need to adapt critical processes to cater for the effects arising from the incidents of load shedding.

One of such critical processes is the transport and storage of thermolabile pharmaceutical product, from a simple cough syrup to vaccines and live saving drug treatments. All of these products, once exposed to temperatures outside of the manufacturer’s specification, lose their effectiveness, and have to be destroyed.

They are reliant on a specific temperature range during transport and storage, and require a dedicated refrigeration plant to maintain this temperature range. But what if the refrigeration plant is no longer able to operate during times of load shedding? Depending on the ambient temperature of the environment, temperature inside the storage facility will quickly rise and reach an equilibrium with the outside temperature, thus rendering the pharmaceutical products useless. Many of these products are controlled substances and need to be disposed of in a controlled and expensive manner.

In order to avoid the loss of valuable products, electronic real time temperature monitoring technology will assist by constantly measuring the temperature and sending out alerts the minute that a temperature fluctuation occurs. Such an alert will be sent to multiple destinations via email or SMS and will alert maintenance personnel anywhere and anytime. Maintenance staff is thus able to intervene with alternate measures and bring back the cooling plant before a critical temperature threshold is reached, thus protecting sensitive stock from expensive losses.

This is one example where the deployment of modern technology provides immense efficiencies and reduces operational cost. Previously these storage facilities would have relied on site based maintenance staff around the clock, tasked to read conventional thermometers on a regular basis, and manually record temperature levels. Now these maintenance teams can be shared amongst many facilities and no longer have to be based on site at all times. This in itself reduces overheads and saves costs for companies that have been entrusted with the storage and transport of these thermolabile products.

Energy experts predict that load shedding will continue to haunt South Africa for many years to come. Electronic real time temperature monitoring technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, is thoroughly tested, calibrated annually and has been designed for uninterrupted operation around the clock with a 99.999% reliability, through the use of internal backup power sources. In today’s competitive economy, where optimal efficiency and cost reduction is key, there are no longer any reasons why modern electronic real time temperature monitoring should not be adopted by any organisation that deals with thermolabile pharmaceutical products.