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M2Cloud: creating the next generation of pharmaceutical supply chains in South Korea

M2Cloud and Telenor Connexion have come together to connect the supply chain of South Korea’s leading pharmaceutical distributor to ensure vaccines and medicines arrive safely to health workers.

Boksan Nice, one of South Korea’s leading pharmaceutical distributors, is connecting its cold-chain to help ensure essential vaccines and medicines arrive safely and securely from manufacturer to the hospitals where they are needed most. With the largest ever global vaccine procurement and supply operation already underway, the timing couldn’t be more important.

On behalf of pharmaceutical manufacturers, Boksan Nice distributes medicines, such as flu vaccines, to domestic hospitals and clinics throughout the country, including Seoul National University Hospital.

Highlights

  • Boksan Nice has selected M2Cloud and Telenor Connexion to strengthen stability and reliability of supply chain management (SCM) while accelerating time to market.
  • Boksan Nice can now pinpoint the location of their medical products, both at rest and in motion, with real-time shipment and inventory visibility and tracking. The solution enables remote monitoring systems which constantly relay data on location and temperature to mitigate spoilage and enable early identification of any potential issues with goods getting delayed or lost.
  • Strengthening cold chains in this way supports the South Korean government’s drive for more agile vaccine response efforts, including effective preparation for the mass distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available.
  • In a new MOU, The Korea Children’s Hospital Association, representative YangDong Park, has agreed to roll out the same solution in order to receive viable, properly handled vaccines throughout the vaccine supply chain management process.

Background

M2Cloud is a South Korean company providing scalable logistics and monitoring solutions for use by hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers in their supply chains. It owns the first IoT Security System in Korea (certified by KISA, Korea Internet & Security Agency) that satisfies all standards of IoT security testing such as stability, integrity, security and unauthorized manipulation defence.

Boksan Nice selected M2Cloud and Telenor Connexion as SCM (Supply Chain Management) solution partners. Under the terms of the agreement, M2Cloud and Telenor Connexion’s role is to connect Boksan Nice’s supply chain – thereby safeguarding the reliability, stability and safe distribution of vaccines as well as accelerating faster time to market.

Challenge

A vaccine’s journey through the supply chain is complex. Successful delivery of vaccines requires precise control of the transporting conditions – specifically temperature and light – to safely store, manage and distribute medicine. This means that vaccines and medicine must be continuously stored within a narrow temperature/light range – from the time they are manufactured until the moment of administration.

If exposed to temperatures that are too high or low, or too much sunlight, they can become ineffective, or worse, fatal. Once a vaccine loses its potency, it cannot be restored. Therefore, medicines must be transported and stored in stable and controlled conditions. This is extremely challenging and requires reliable cold-chain equipment throughout the supply chain.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have a significant stake in the vaccine supply chain as their reputations rely on the effectiveness of their vaccines. From a regulatory perspective, storage and transport equipment, most often refrigerators and freezers, must comply with standards defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Additionally, every vaccine must adhere to a specific set of criteria and handling procedures. Yet, despite these efforts, risks exist, and handling errors still sometimes occur.

An urgent problem

In October 2020, the South Korea government attempted to avoid a mass flu outbreak while it simultaneously tackled COVID-19 by launching a free flu vaccination program for 19 million people.

As a result, around 13 million people took the flu jab. But trust in the vaccine program waned when 13 people, including one youth, died following administration. An investigation into the deaths concluded that the vaccine and fatalities were not connected.

However, this is the second time that South Korea’s vaccination program has come under scrutiny. It was previously suspended after it was discovered that around five million vaccine doses, which required refrigeration, had been mistakenly exposed to room temperatures while being transported to a medical facility, rendering them unstable.

As a result of such incidents, and due to the massive international demand for a COVID-19 vaccine, many South Korean pharmaceutical manufacturers are under pressure from the government, and society, to be better prepared so that they can assure rapid yet safe delivery of medicines and vaccines.

A global concern

Although cold chain equipment for vaccine storage has existed for decades, there has not been much technological innovation, until comparatively recently. Older equipment can be unpredictable and sometimes perform poorly risking spoiling vaccines if they are exposed to temperature fluctuations.

In some cases, parts of these supply chains can also be outdated, unreliable or unequipped to “go the last mile”. Common challenges include weak distribution systems, shortage of trained staff, and a lack of reliable data.

Yet improvements are more urgent than ever. Prior to COVID-19, vaccine volumes were expected to quadruple in 2020 compared to the last decade. Now, due to the pandemic, that figure is forecast to be many times higher, meaning the demand for innovative and reliable technical solutions is at fever pitch.

Solution

Telenor Connexion provides 2G(GSM) connectivity and IoT gateway to M2Cloud’s supply chain management solution. The solution provided to Boksan Nice by M2Cloud and Telenor Connexion enables transparency and traceability in the cold chain throughout the whole distribution process, thereby strengthening the safe transport of medicines and ensuring strict quality control. Importantly, if any environmental fluctuations occur, they are noticed immediately, and preventative measures can be taken.

Sensors connected to the fridges and freezers onboard every delivery truck check temperature and humidity. This data is sent to an IoT gateway. Using the mobile (cellular) network the IoT gateway seeds this data to a server. The IoT server monitors the temperature and if any temperature fluctuations occur, for example, preventative measures can be taken to safeguard the consignment. The staff member who receives the vaccines in the clinic or hospital scans a QR code or NFC Tag to check the temperature logging data.

M2Cloud are proud to transform and connect Boksan Nice’s supply chain with our robust, secure and reliable solution. We are grateful to Telenor Connexion for its industry-leading expertise in connectivity and for their help in developing a connected offering that is helping to curb the negative effect of the pandemic on logistics operations in South Korea, and ultimately ensuring essential medicines get to the people who need them most.”

Mr. Jinsoo Moon, CEO of M2Cloud

With Telenor Connexion’s Managed Connectivity, M2Cloud gets access to over 500 mobile networks across the world. Telenor Connexion’s Global SIM card allows the solution to be standardized, no matter where the solution will be used in South Korea today, or in other countries in the future.

The advantage for M2Cloud is that they have one single point of contact for support and monitoring, one contract, one consolidated invoice, one API and one roadmap for South Korea where it is being used as well as in other countries should it ever be used abroad.

Results

M2Cloud has successfully started rolling out the connectivity services to Boksan Nice and it is already revolutionizing its supply chain management. Today, it’s much easier to understand where goods are, how they are being stored and when they can be expected to arrive at a specific location.

As a result of connecting their cold chain, Boksan Nice are experiencing major benefits for all aspects of the supply chain. For the first time, they have:

  • Reassurance that their pharmaceutical products are located where stakeholders say they are, both at rest and in motion.
  • Early identification of any potential issues with goods getting delayed, lost or changes to environmental conditions.
  • Real-time shipment and inventory visibility and tracking.
  • Easier supply and demand planning as stakeholders, such as hospitals, know when they can expect to receive and process vaccines.
  • Better quality control by ensuring the pharmaceutical goods are kept in optimal conditions.
  • Improved predictive repair and maintenance planning due to constant remote monitoring.

Together with Boksan Nice and The Korea Children’s Hospital Association they have agreed that the hospitals will only receive the vaccine when the visibility and transparency of the vaccine distribution process is ensured.

The project is still ongoing, despite this, the initial success is encouraging M2Cloud to explore business opportunities related to pharmaceutical cold chain monitoring and tracking systems for other companies, too.

M2Cloud said that Telenor Connexion has provided not only the cost advantage over other global platform providers and domestic operators but also a customer-friendly portal which enables the tracking of every SIM being used as well as 24/7 technical support – essential for the smooth running of the operation.

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