Reusable Shipping Technology in the Pharmaceutical Industry


written by: Chad Hodges, Vice President, Life Science Solutions

In recent years, there’s been an evolution in the life sciences and pharmaceuticals industry as advancements in technology have gotten stronger and created more temperature sensitive medications and therapies. As these products have become more complex in nature, so too have the storage and delivery requirements to keep them safe for consumption by patients. Engineering a way to deliver these products, safely, into the hands of the patient once they leave the more controlled environment of the warehouse became a top initiative for the supply chain. In addition to this initiative, the world has also experienced a push toward more sustainable methods and technologies as it relates to every aspect of life, including shipping materials. Our current life science and pharmaceutical clients have looked at how they can lessen their environmental footprint, while also safely delivering their products. As a result, sustainable shipping technologies are becoming a popular element to introduce into the supply chain.  


When temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals and therapies were first introduced, they required a great amount of shipping materials to keep them both properly protected and within their temperature requirements. In the industry, we refer to all of the components that are used to properly ship products as pack outs. In multi-client facilities, like the ones MD Logistics operates, there are a variety of different clients storing their products in the facility at any given time. Each client has different pack out requirements for how their products are to be safely packaged and shipped. In addition, there could be multiple pack outs for a given client’s full suite of products based on the different temperature requirements their product line dictates. This means that in a each facility, there could be dozens of pack out situations that have to be learned and tracked by staff. In addition to having to learn these processes, the components that make up these pack outs are often intended for single-use. While these components are necessary to ensure the product stays safe for consumption, they do lead to a great deal of waste after delivery.   

Present Day

In recent years, we have seen the world make a great shift toward sustainability and renewable technologies. This shift is something that we are feeling in the logistics industry as initiatives around green warehouse technologies and sustainable packaging become increasingly important. At MD Logistics, in our life sciences and pharmaceuticals vertical we have seen more of our clients make the shift from traditional shippers to more sustainable options.

While sustainable shipping technologies are not a new phenomenon, options available to those operating specifically within the life sciences and pharmaceuticals industry have come a long way in recent years. Today, now that there are a few good products on the market, our clients are both more interested and invested in incorporating these solutions into their own supply chain.  

Benefits to Incorporating a Sustainable Shipping Technology

There are various benefits to incorporating a sustainable shipping technology into your pharmaceutical supply chain. These are benefits that can both be realized by the third party logistics provider and their client. Below are just a few:

Simplified Pack out. Reusable shippers simplify the pack out process by drastically cutting down on the individual needed components. Complicated pack outs can lead to issues; more supplies to ensure are on hand, more steps in the process to track completion and more opportunities for error overall. Reusable shippers allow us to exceed customer KPI’s and maintain a competitive solution.

Streamlined Fulfillment. Utilizing a sustainable shipper not only cuts back on the components utilized to pack the product into the shipper, it streamlines the pack out itself. Historically, a pack out could differ both by client and the item being shipped. A sustainable shipper provides a few pack out options to accommodate a range of temperature requirements.

Cost Savings. Sustainable shippers do have the potential to offer significant cost savings to the client. While the upfront costs might be more, after the shippers have been used a determined number of times, cost savings can be realized when compared to traditional shippers.

Supplies Replenishment & Quality Checks. Replenishment of supplies and quality control checks on the shippers themselves are oftentimes performed by the vendor on a consistent basis. This ensures there is not a disruption in fulfillment and all shippers are performing to the standard the client’s product demands.

Vendor Management. Historically, the event of choosing a sustainable shipping option was a decision that is driven by the client. Once our client chooses a vendor, we work with that vendor to ensure the processes are in place in our facilities to ensure fulfillment utilizing their shippers is as streamlined as possible. It is important to verify that their product can fit on our conveyors, our IT systems can handle additional information of scanning and tracking serial numbers on the shippers and the shippers themselves, once packed, aren’t too heavy for our team to lift.

Environmental Impact. Perhaps the largest driver behind a sustainable shipping solution, is that of the impact it has on the environment. As we have already discussed, traditional shipping solutions are typically made of single use shipping materials, contributing to excess waste in landfills. A sustainable shipper utilizes reusable elements, thus cutting back on this waste and reducing environmental footprint, overall.


As we look to the future, based on our experience, we will only see increased acceptance of reusable shippers within the industry. As initiatives around sustainability continue to dictate changes, advancements in technology will only continue to make these initiatives a more attainable and cost effective option for all. To this day, we continue to help our clients make the transition to a sustainable shipping option in their supply chain as achievable as possible.

Are you looking for a 3PL provider within the life science and pharmaceuticals industry to manage specialized fulfillment, including utilizing sustainable shippers, reach out to our team of logistics experts!