Interview with Daniel Kwa on SkyCell's innovative solutions

Update : 28th August, 2023

In this interview, Daniel Kwa, Head of Sales APAC from SkyCell, sat down with Cold Chain Platform's Founder & CEO, Linda Kim, to discuss how SkyCell's innovation and digitalization benefit the pharma industry. Daniel also shared his valuable insights into SkyCell's products, future plans, and expansion strategies for the APAC region.

Interview Transcript

Linda Kim: Hi Daniel. Thank you for joining me today.

Daniel Kwa: Thank you Linda. My pleasure to be here too.

Linda Kim: To start off, could you please provide us with some background information about yourself and SkyCell?

Daniel Kwa: Sure, I lead up the SkyCell Asia Pacific as Head of Sales. So, I work very closely with my team in Asia to drive the adoption of SkyCell technology, which is relatively new, but it is also superior, which we hope as many of our stakeholders like to use.

And, my background is predominantly the last 20 years in the healthcare logistics area. I was a lot of years in freight forwarding but all those was working very closely with the pharmaceutical and healthcare client manufacturers located in Asia to develop new solutions to make supply chain more efficient and easier and better.

So, and I hope that we do that through SkyCell now. SkyCell is a purpose led technology company whose mission is to create safe, secure and sustainable solutions for the supply chain, especially the pharma sector and we do it through a combination of hybrid temperature control containers as well as digitalisation technology and big data.

Linda Kim: What sets SkyCell apart from other established cold chain container companies in the market considering its relatively young age of just 10 years?

Daniel Kwa: I think being a late entrant has its benefits. We pride ourselves on having the most technological advanced containers - what we call Hybrid. Which is really a new thing that we pioneered in the aviation sector.

So what is Hybrid?

Hybrid essentially leverages the advantages of both active and passive technology that exists today. And it is reusable phase change material as a coolant, but it has active properties. In a way hybrid means that it is able, or our container is able to recharge itself automatically just by placing the container in a cool environment like what is typically found in the airport cold room or a Reefer Truck. And a Hybrid container does not require the use of an electrical source or any other way, or lithium battery to recharge it. It just charges on its own.

So, in a very complex airfreight operation of a pharmaceutical supply chain this technology takes away all the risk and complexity. It makes it much more simpler and therefore, it allows the freight forwarders, the airline, and the pharma company to really simplify the operations and able to protect the integrity of their pharma cargo when its moving from end to end.

Linda Kim: Excellent, let's discuss SkyCell's latest Hybrid container the 1500X. What does 1500X refer to, and how does it differentiate from existing temperature-controlled containers in the market?

Daniel Kwa: Ok, yeah, it's our model name, 1500X. So, we have a range of containers that cater to the different temperature range that is required for the pharmaceutical sector like for example, deep frozen, frozen, chilled and the CRT controlled room temperature. And 1500X is to cater to particularly 2 to 8 degrees Celsius and 15 to 25.

So, what does the 1500 actually stand for?

Actually, it is the inner volume of the container and it means that it can hold up to 1500 litres of cargo. In the supply chain that means a US pallet, or EU pallet but because we run on a phase change material where we allow that the cargo can actually touch the wall it does allow pharma companies to utilise the entire inner volume of the containers without the need for any space for air circulation so that's what the 1500 actually stands for.

So, what does the X stand for?

X stands for 3 things. Performance, protection, and efficiency. So performance is, this is a container that has a superior independent run-time, which is usually how pharma companies qualify the container based on how much they last for specific temperature range.

1500X has an unprecedented independent run-time of 270 hours that is by far a world record and I think it allows for companies to have more peace of mind when they are going through a very treacherous journey of let's say from Korea to Brazil or a very long journey, it definitely helps take away a lot of the risk.

The second X means protection. So, with the design of the container it has better feet to absorb the shock, so the containers can absorb up to 90% of all the shock that is being faced with throughout its journey.

It also has a double door to take away the humidity, so the cargo remains dry and most importantly with the 1500X it is installed with the latest IoT, with a logger that can monitor its location, temperature, and thus allow pharma and freight forwarders to track the containers in real-time and I think that helps them to protect the cargo.

And the last X, which is efficiency, so this is by far on the single pallet containers one of the lightest and thinnest containers while still maintaining a very high quality. And what's this benefit is cost. So, imagine having a lighter and smaller container to move through the door-to-door airfreight operations, from trucking to airlines.

It does allow airlines right now to better handle it in a more fuel-efficient model and we believe that with a smaller and lighter container it does bring on the benefit of cost efficiency because right now we require less effort, less fuel to bring the containers and the cargo from end to end, and I think this is one thing the pharma definitely allow.

And one more thing to mention that because it is so small. For the first time, you could put four containers into one PMC - and PMC is what they call it - an airline pallet on the aircraft. Which is when you are able to fit four containers onto a PMC it does have these economy of scale effects where the airline is able to bring on this additional saving because you are making the best use of the airline pallet and therefore the benefit to the pharma company will therefore be a lower cost so, I hope that is good.

Linda Kim: In light of potential disruptions to airfreight operations and the risk of temperature excursions, due to factors like customs delays, and global warming, what advice would you give to potential shippers to ensure the integrity of their cargo?

Daniel Kwa: So, when it comes to shipping high value, crucial lifesaving medicines like vaccines and biologistic drugs, it is really crucial to be able to anticipate and deal with all the potential disruption that we face today in the supply chain, and we are happy to say that there are tools out there that enable such actions to be done.

So, like for SkyCell we have a special SECURE platform that now allows for pharma companies to simulate the entire operation digitally and predict risk and therefore, if you can predict risk, then you can anticipate and deal with it.

And secondly, when you are actually moving the cargo through operations there is also the visibility platform that allows the pharma company and their 3PLs, freight forwarders, that they can have real time monitoring of the cargo or the containers the location it is at. What is the temperature it is in, and what is cargo condition and this real-time visibility does allow forwarders to be able to anticipate and intervene when something happens so that they can save the drugs from being destroyed. So, this is important.

The next advice would be that in terms of selection of logistics partner like freight forwarder, trucking, and airline I think it is also crucial to know that there are, there are certain airlines that are a little more competent and able to deal with this unanticipated factor especially in cold chain handling. They are trained, they are, people who are aware of what they need to do when things happen. And I think it is important for pharma companies to select the right partners when they are moving the cargo.

Linda Kim: As the world moves towards Industry 4.0 and digital technologies such as IoT, Big Data Analytics, and AI, are increasingly relevant. How does SkyCell leverage these advancements as a packaging company?

So that's a very interesting question. Because many people would think that SkyCell is just a cold chain packaging company, but it is actually very much in our DNA since our founding year 10 years ago that digitalisation was fully embraced right from the start.

So, we had developed our own proprietary software, what we call SkyCell SECURE which allows us to collect a lot of information about the environment which the pharma cargo had to face and this 'SECURE' allows us to combine operation data, which is what actually happened to the cargo, with simulation data.

It is actually very interesting, because imagine you can actually know whether a planned shipment is going according to plan or deviating and therefore able to anticipate or even intervene, timely, before disaster happened it is actually the software that allows such a thing to be able to be done.

Previously you can only react only when things have happened, but now maybe potentially, you can do the intervention before. So, that is a very powerful technology, so we believe that this software, or this digitalisation tool and IoT, allow us, and our customers, to make, very data driven decisions and able to anticipate risk and deal with it very proactively.

Linda Kim: That's impressive. So how can users access and utilise SkyCell containers for transporting critical cold chain products? Could you explain the availability and logistics of acquiring and utilising the containers?

Daniel Kwa: Sure, we have tried to make containers available and accessible by pharma companies as easy as possible and the way we do that is by strategically curating the location of service centres where shipment is most bound to happen. So, if you know SkyCell we focus predominantly on the biologics, vaccine, API, or high value drugs manufacturing or logistics centre, and we know that in Asia this is predominantly in Singapore, Australia, China, Korea, Japan - these are the most common places - of course India as well - and this is where we also have our service centre.

So, other than the service centre, we have also a network of our strategic airlines, who are trained by us. And they could also be an alternative source whereby shipper and freight forwarder can go to, to get access to the containers. So that is also an alternative for the freight forwarders.

Linda Kim: If someone is interested in leasing a SkyCell container, what is the process they would need to follow?

Daniel Kwa:It is actually very easy. We make SkyCell containers available on a rental basis which is actually a much simpler transaction for forwarder and pharma companies. So, if anybody was interested to book a container it's very easy, they just have to get direct access to our country sales representative directly or they can go through our website and there will be a process to help them with booking of the containers.

So, what the Sales Rep will be doing is asking a set of questions to understand the temperature requirement of what pharma company needs and they will guide them through, and advise on, the proper container selection and therefore, help them with the booking process - so it's quite easy.

Linda Kim: Finally, as the head of Sales Asia Pacific, could you share SkyCell's future plans and expansion strategies for the APAC region?

Daniel Kwa: Yeah, we have a very ambitious plan for Asia Pacific. We are definitely looking to expand our presence and also build our strategic relationship with more stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical companies, freight forwarders and airline. And in anticipation of the growth that we had we are also beefing up on infrastructure, like building more service centres and the scope of the service centres so that they can bring or make containers more available to the markets in Asia.

Also lastly, we are definitely bringing in more talent, like supply chain experts, within the company to create more value and solutions to serve the pharma sector in Asia.

Linda Kim: Fantastic. Daniel, thank you so much for sharing valuable insights into SkyCell's products and future plans. It was great to learn more about SkyCell, and it was my pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you.

Daniel Kwa: Thank you very much Linda - great to be here.

Daniel Kwa is the Head of Sales APAC, SkyCell and Linda Kim is the Founder & CEO, Cold Chain Platform.

About SkyCell

SkyCell offers a data-driven container solution that allows pharma companies to optimise their supply chain by reducing, and even predicting, the risk of delivering sensitive drugs by air. It brings together big data, software and hardware to transform an ever-evolving supply chain, using a growing pool of nearly one billion data-points to enable a market-leading failure rate of less than 0.1%, whilst also reducing CO2 emissions by almost half. Founded in Switzerland in 2012, the company’s innovative approach has been validated by leading pharma companies and has partnerships with major airlines. For more information visit

About Cold Chain Platform

Cold Chain Platform (CCP) is 100% focused on cold chain and logistics in the bio-pharmaceutical, life science, and healthcare industries. CCP shares global cold chain and logistics information and valuable resources to help companies acting in the pharmaceutical space find the right cold chain and logistics partners for their supply chain management.