Pharmaceuticals need warehouse storage facilities with both temperature and humidity control. Climate controlled warehouses offer the best storage spaces keeping the temperature and relative humidity within acceptable ranges.
The pharmaceutical industry has grown to immense heights with an outstanding share of the global exports and imports market. It is impossible to distribute medicines and drugs worldwide without facing the challenges of shipping and storage logistics.
With pharmaceuticals, the challenges increase because the products are susceptible to degradation when exposed to extreme environmental fluctuations. That creates the need for storage facilities with controlled environments. Additionally, it generates the need to monitor the storage facilities and keep changes at a minimum or within the tolerable range.
The production of pharmaceuticals involves chemical reactions of pre-measured substances at specific temperatures. These requirements mean there is a minimal margin for error.
The need for minimal temperature fluctuations follows the product from the time it is an ingredient, through manufacture and production, to the storage facility and down through the distribution chain to the final consumer.
Extreme temperatures will affect the drug stability and may induce degradation resulting in harmful byproducts. While some temperature fluctuations may cause the drugs to change physically, most occurrences leave no physical trace. That can be dangerous if not noted before the drugs arrive in the hands of consumers.
In response to the narrow temperature tolerance of pharmaceuticals, cold chain storage facilities became extremely important. Here, medication storage is at low and constant temperatures.
However, ELPRO notes that temperature is not the only factor that challenges pharmaceutical storage.
Changes in humidity can also cause deterioration in drug quality and effectiveness.
Physical drug degradation is more evident in extremely humid or dry conditions. Consequently, there arises a need to monitor and control both temperature and humidity conditions in storage warehouses.
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Climate Controlled Warehouses
Climate control, in this sense, means the constant control of temperature and humidity within an enclosure (such as a storage facility) to ensure the protection of sensitive and valuable goods from extreme temperatures.
This mechanism includes both the monitoring and regulation aspects that work together to make the process effective. The limits for both variables are subject to the product and the manufacturer's specifications.
For there to be control, there must be sensors to provide monitoring capabilities. From the sensor readings, you can then determine the appropriate actions.
If the parameters fall below the stipulated standard, there must be a mechanism to restore them to normalcy. When the parameters go above the upper limit, a restoration mechanism is needed to bring them down.
Temperature controlled warehouses only focus on maintaining the temperature at a set value. The disadvantage is that the humidity fluctuates massively, which can be a considerable challenge in pharmaceutical storage.
Uncontrolled humidity can propagate the proliferation of mold and mildew. ELPRO recommends that the best storage facility for medicines and vaccines must be a climate controlled warehouse.
That applies to temporary storage, which many standards cap at 24 to 72 hours or long-term storage. ELPRO provides intelligent and sophisticated environmental systems that help ensure a very narrow margin for temperature and humidity changes.
Achieving Temperature Control
Several factors can contribute to climate fluctuations in a warehouse. These include prevailing outside conditions, warehouse structural integrity, the constant influx and outflux of people and products, and storage space arrangement.
All are reasons why there are temperature variations in warehouses. The first step in temperature control in a climate controlled warehouse is to determine the lower and upper temperature limits. Decisions must be made to determine how low temperatures may be allowed to fall and the point beyond which they should not rise and exceed; and for how long.
One can only decide based on the kind of products that will be in the warehouse. Each product may vary in storage temperature requirements. However, most products store well in temperatures between 2°C and 8°C. In the case of products with specific requirements, you must consult the manufacturer's specifications for storage temperature limits.
After establishing upper and lower temperature limits, it is time to perform the entire warehouse temperature mapping. It is common to find different temperatures at different spots in the same warehouse.
Mapping is the process of finding these temperature pockets using a verified testing procedure. Temperature mapping helps determine the temperature distribution in the entire structure and thereby identify cold and hot spots.
From the mapping exercise, you can establish which areas of the warehouse need corrective measures. These corrective actions may include structural modifications or changing airflow patterns to achieve a uniform temperature distribution.
Cold and hot spots provide the best places for the installation of temperature sensors. That is because any fluctuation will be most pronounced in these places and thereby easier to detect. Continuous temperature monitoring in a climate controlled warehouse is possible with modern advanced data loggers. You can program the data loggers to read the temperature at regular intervals. These readings in a graph provide an accurate depiction of the temperature curve during the measurement period.
In the case of temperature excursions, remote alarms alert warehouse management so immediate action can be taken.
Tighter temperature control is possible by incorporating specialized storage facilities within the climate controlled warehouse. These spaces include walk-in freezers where access is limited, and there are fewer interruptions from the outside. Unlike the entire warehouse where there is constant movement, these enclosed spaces ensure limited access to specific times, thereby offering more control over the temperature and humidity.
Humidity Control in a Climate Controlled Warehouse
In addition to temperature control, a climate controlled warehouse also offers humidity control. A standard climate controlled warehouse maintains the humidity at 55% and below.
At 60% relative humidity, degradation of most substances begins. Since many people use air conditioning to absorb moisture from the air, the common misunderstanding is that high temperature corresponds with high humidity.
Maintaining the optimum relative humidity in a climate controlled warehouse requires high power humidifiers and dehumidifiers. The two devices work oppositely to manage moisture content in the air at the required value.
When the air has too little moisture, the humidifier adds a controlled amount of moisture to the air. When the relative humidity spikes, the dehumidifier extracts some moisture from the air to balance out the humidity at that particular temperature.
Another means of temperature and humidity control in a climate controlled warehouse is performing structural changes. Proper insulation will protect the inside from extreme weather changes from outside. That will make the climate-control systems more effective and consume less power. Another means of weatherproofing a warehouse is to use sealing strips on doors. These will help prevent the influx of air from outside, which destabilizes the temperature-humidity balance achieved on the inside.
With these temperature and humidity control techniques, you can maintain the environment in a climate controlled warehouse at the required levels. The success of these principles depends on 2 main factors:
- A summer and winter mapping to evaluate the critical points within the warehouse
- A temperature monitoring system that immediately alarms if the temperature or humidity levels are out of range