It might not be the first supply chain you think about, but while countries around the world are rushing to find a vaccine for COVID-19, the cold chain behind medical transport is more and more relevant. A company in Greenville, Softbox Systems, has become a global leader in temperature-controlled packaging, helping transport the products of top pharmaceutical companies to hospitals, doctors’ offices and homes around the world.
Softbox Systems creates packaging — often for the pharmaceutical sector — for different temperature ranges. The packaging is used to transfer individual vials, finished products or active pharmaceutical ingredients from one location to another while keeping the necessary temperature steady for the item. These products can be flu vaccines, EpiPens, inhalers or one of the other countless medications that need to be kept at certain temperatures..
“If the shipment gets too hot or cold, it can break down molecular properties of said item, and it becomes ineffective,” John Hammes, general manager for the Americas at Softbox Systems explained. “It might work differently with what the intention was, or it may not work at all.”
Softbox Systems was founded in the U.K. in 1995, and the company maintains its global headquarters there. Hammes started with the company in 2009 to help spearhead U.S. operations since they had been relying on a third party for distribution. The company also has locations in Spain, India, Singapore, Belgium and elsewhere.
“We had a good product. We knew the industry, so we just put our head down and got to work,” Hammes said.
In 2013, the company opened a 29,000-square-foot facility off of Pelham Road in Greenville for its Americas division. Eventually, the company grew too large for that facility and moved to Park Commerce Road in a 65,000-square-foot ISO-certified facility where almost 60 Softbox System employees work.
While what they do is simple, how they do it isn’t, since medications require different temperatures, Hammes explained. They’ve even worked with Merck Pharmaceuticals on a drone shipper that could be used to transport medicine across disaster areas or war zones, he said.
Another product that’s caught people’s attention is Tempcell ECO — an all paper-based packaging unit launched six months ago that won recognition for innovation by Fast Company. There’s a push, Hammes said, to be more sustainable.
Besides developing sustainable products, Softbox Systems also partnered with American Forests. For each Tempcell ECO sold, the company makes a monetary donation to plant a tree. So far, they’ve been able to donate enough to plant more than 20,000 trees.
“What we are looking at as a company is to be the global leader not only in temperature control packaging but sustainability,” Hammes said. “We have a corporate drive to do that.”