The past two years have presented a challenging test for the citizens of humanity. Survival has become a repetitive, tedious series of chores, including the wearing of masks, establishing a six-foot bubble around oneself, and persistent sanitization of persons and surfaces. The idea was to implement preventative measures as a holding action until science could swoop in like an avenging superhero and save the day. And my company, Zebra, proved to be an integral part of that deliverance.
The Heat Might Be On, but We Won’t Let It Stop Us
Since 1996, nearly 10 billion vaccine vial monitors (VVM) have been manufactured in Morris Plains, New Jersey, by a team of nearly 100 at a 55,000-square foot Zebra Supplies facility. If you were to average that out, it would equate to approximately 400 million VVMs a year. Except, that annual breakdown doesn’t reflect reality.
Nearly one billion of those 10 billion VVMs were manufactured in 2021 alone!
These numbers don’t even account for the other temperature sensing and monitoring technologies that are produced in this building each year for other cold chain monitoring needs. Everything from food and beverages to beauty products, pharmaceuticals and even fresh flowers are considered perishable and, thus, must remain under strict temperature observation while moving throughout the supply chain.
I knew they were doing important work in Morris Plains, but I didn’t fully grasp the extent of their efforts until I experienced them myself.
An urgent call came in May 2021 from leaders at the legacy Temptime plant asking for team members to help package shipments of temperature indicators that monitor COVID-19 vaccine vials for potential heat exposure as they work their way to administration sites. Normally, I spend my days in the Quality Assurance Lab at the Zebra Supplies plant in Greenville, Wisconsin, checking the product that comes off our lines to ensure that it meets our customers’ specifications and our quality standards. So, I jumped at the chance to experience Zebra life outside the comfortable confines of Wisconsin. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my work life!
Arriving the day after Memorial Day, my partner and I were immediately given a tour of the facility. While we encountered processes and machines that were familiar to us as Supplies employees, we were also introduced to the concept that makes Zebra’s HEATmarker® VVMs and other temperature sensing products so special: a series of compounds that allow indicators to alter their appearance based on the environment in which they are located. It’s utterly mesmerizing to see in real time. During this initial tour, we witnessed this scientific wizardry firsthand.