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Roche flies cargo direct to Europe

Indianapolis, US: Roche Diagnostics is sending its temperature sensitive diabetic test kits direct to Luxembourg from Indianapolis to instead of routing via Chicago. The change eliminates potential for loss or damage by weather to the valuable medical supplies before they get to Europe.

The company is forging its own intercontinental supply chain, beginning next week, with a new direct flight each weekend from Indianapolis to Luxembourg.  Roche’s Accu-Chek brand electronic meters and test strips for blood samples can be kept in cool storage at Indianapolis International Airport.  Sealed pallets will load directly to a refrigerated plane.

Eric Martin, vice president of supply chain operations at Roche’s Northeastside campus says: “We used to go through Chicago.  But it is a higher risk to expose the products to being handled multiple times and exposed to uncertain temperatures outdoors at the Chicago airport”.

Since 2006, the biopharma manufacturer with plants and markets in Indiana and Germany has used less-direct weekly flights to move products between the US and Europe.  The company and its partners in the project will announce today that a third round-trip flight will begin Sunday to directly tie this Indianapolis-Luxembourg circuit, he said.

An official with freight forwarder DB Schenker, the company arranging the flights for Roche on Cargolux planes, said the Boeing 747-400 will take off from Indianapolis at 8 am every Sunday and land Sunday evening in Luxembourg.

“That’s in time for (local ground) distribution on Monday to take advantage of the whole week,” Martin said.

The plane can carry about 110 tons of freight.  Roche is sending 25 tons to 40 tons each week, leaving room for other Indiana companies to ship products to a European logistics centre.

To local leaders in logistics and economic development and at Indianapolis International Airport, a new intercontinental cargo flight is a big deal.

The Indianapolis airport actually has only a handful of true international flights each week.  There are passenger flights to Canada and Mexico and cargo flights to France, Japan, Hong Kong and Mexico.

“Surprisingly, of the over 180 million pounds of air cargo Indiana exported in 2010, less than 2% of those exports left from an Indiana airport.  Almost two-thirds of Indiana’s air cargo exports end up flying from Chicago’s O’Hare airport,” said Chris Matney, air service director for the Indianapolis airport.