The cold facts about the cold chain in medical devices

29 May 2019


cold chain

Blog by Tim Broekhuizen – Regional Manager, Centre of Excellence, Supply Chain Management (APAC) at DKSH

Tim Broekhuizen is a Dutch national, currently stationed in Asia as Regional Manager, Center of Excellence, Supply Chain Management (APAC) at DKSH. DKSH is a leading Market Expansion Services (MES) provider, helping companies to grow their business in existing markets and expand new ones. In his role, Tim is constantly looking for improvement opportunities related to services and capabilities in supply chain management. He shares with us his views on the cold chain as well as his experience living and working in this part of the world.

The cold facts about the cold chain in medical devices

Our capillary omni-channel distribution network includes medical devices and pharmaceutical products. Based on research, we believe our ‘Total Quality Management on Cold Chains’ is a globally unique and distinctive programme around our pharma and medical devices handling. We have integrated improvement for product handling, asset management, personnel management and risk management, with structured actions at each level in the organisation.

Never lower your guard

TQM on Cold Chains is built on continuous improvement, which means we tackle problems head-on, resolve them and integrate the solutions into the programme to make sure we don’t ever have to face them again. The number of challenges has become less and less over time. However, if there is one that we continuously face, it is to keep awareness alive. The cold chain is a topic where we can never lower our guard. For those interested, you can find an animation and related articles on our website.

Essential to managing this challenge is frequent internal communication around the topic. The programme contains a few structured communications. We have a fixed monthly APAC call and monthly reporting across APAC in place, which are part of the annual performance review of the individuals involved. Furthermore, we consistently research. Interesting information gets pro-actively cross-shared.

Handling differences

In general, I would say the handling of the cold chain varies greatly between developing and developed countries. Factors such as availability/stability of electricity, road infrastructure, people development and vendor availability play a significant role in the cold chain. We had to keep these differences in mind while developing the programme. But living in Asia, I am always faced with differences in culture and living and working standards.

Initially, I wanted to work in another European country to broaden my skills and gain multicultural exposure. Asia was not on my radar at all. However, after a company invited me to visit their local operations Asia became an attractive option. I decided to grasp the opportunity. Even though it was indeed challenging at times these past fifteen years, I have no regrets. In this period, I gained broad and extensive experience in the supply chain. Moreover, on a personal level, I feel I have a much more balanced view on what is going on in the world.

Ahead in digitisation and innovation

Many people associate Asia – and I guess specifically Thailand, where I live – with a relaxed lifestyle. However, I feel that this country and the entire region are incredibly dynamic, while companies are very structured and yet agile enough to deal with changes. I guess people don’t realise how quickly, for example, developments in digitisation and innovation move the market place forward in Asia (and sometimes even ahead of the West). Also, building relationships is essential in most Asian countries. Even though some markets often look the same, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work when operating in various markets in Asia.


We want to thank Tim Broekhuizen for his time and sharing his knowledge. Do you work in Supply Chain and would you like to share your experiences? Let us know and send an email to info@medicaldevicescommunity.com.

Image from Shutterstock