Facing the Storm In Stride

When it comes to clinical trials, sample collection kits need to arrive on time, or precious samples will not be able to be tested within stability, meaning their data is irretrievably lost. Adverse weather events and other disruptions to the sample chain of transport represent a serious threat to specimen stability and data integrity.

To combat this threat, Covance has invested in a team of global logistics personnel who continually monitor shipments and potential transportation problems around the world, implementing contingency plans when necessary to maintain an extraordinary record of 99.9% on-time deliveries. Even when faced with the largest storm so far this year, Winter Storm Jonas, Covance delivered.

Getting snowed under

Jonas wreaked havoc on the East Coast of the United States from January 22 through 24, 2016, producing up to three feet of snow within eleven states in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. More than 13,000 flights were cancelled, with effects rippling internationally. This storm created a serious threat to the integrity of patient samples being collected for dozens of clinical trials. Our sponsors were concerned about the potential impact to their trials, and asked us what we were doing about it.

Anticipating the worst

To mitigate the impact of any weather system or natural disaster, the Covance Logistics and Project Management teams work proactively, as evidenced by our response to Jonas. Since the storm was forecast well in advance, we were ready. Our teams started monitoring shipments before the storm even hit. The timing of the storm and the main cleanup efforts were fortuitous, since relatively few sample kits would normally be in transit over a weekend.

However, on Thursday, January 21, our sponsors faced the threat of considerable expense and loss. As the storm moved across the South on its way to the East Coast, all three of our U.S. hubs were in the storm’s path, risking essentially all of the samples bound for our U.S. labs. Our logistics team maintained constant contact with our couriers, ensuring that each shipment would have a place on an available flight. Memphis was hit fairly hard, which caused some later than usual FedEx deliveries on Friday, but all deliveries were still received within stability due to our efforts and partnership with our couriers.

Leveraging strong relationships

The next day, a Friday, samples were bound for referral laboratories on the East Coast. The area was shutting down due to the storm, but due to our proactivity in getting shipments routed as early as possible, we experienced no issues in delivering these shipments. We have such strong relationships with our couriers that they prioritized our shipments throughout the event.

While more than 1,500 sample collection kits were in transit in the affected area during the storm, we brought 98.1% of them into our labs within stability. This is exceptional given the fact that the eastern United States was essentially shut down.

Committed to protecting samples

We couldn’t have weathered the storm without the dedication and hard work of our logistics team and laboratory personnel. For example, in our lab in Cranford, New Jersey, a devoted employee made it in to the lab on Saturday despite several feet of snow, in order to be available to receive and safely process any shipments that made it to the site. Cranford’s employees also worked long hours on Monday and Tuesday, ensuring that all samples received on those days would be quickly processed to minimize potential data loss.

Although a relatively small number of samples were in transit during the event, they were still collectively worth more than $3 million to our sponsors, in terms of the cost of replacement visits and potential patient replacement. Our proactive approach, team effort and courier partnerships were the keys to safeguarding sample shipments. Whatever Mother Nature sends our way, Covance is always prepared to ensure the success of your clinical trials.

For more information on our logistics solutions, check out our infographic.