Time Doesn’t Freeze for Patients – Marken Accelerates Supply Chain Operations During Polar Vortex

Marken Case Study - Supply Chain Operations


A strong winter storm hit the northeast U.S. causing dangerous sub-zero temperatures and some of the coldest weather the Chicago area had seen in decades. The result was a powerful polar vortex, which brought a sweep of Arctic air and record-breaking temperatures. At the peak of the storm, Chicago recorded temperatures of –23°F (or –30°C).

Struggling against blizzard-like conditions and plunging temperatures, thousands of flights were cancelled to and from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) each day. The city soon saw the Chicago River ice over and the vast waterfront of Lake Michigan freeze.

In the midst of the storm, Marken’s local team received a request from a pharmaceutical client. The client needed a critical, compassionate use drug to be delivered to a nearby hospital for a patient suffering from a rare, fast-growing respiratory cancer.


Per specific instruction from the client, the investigational medicinal product (IMP) was to be delivered in under 24 hours to preserve efficacy. Working against the clock and frigid temperatures, the drug was shipped nearly a thousand miles to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) where Marken was ready ahead of the storm.

Tactical plans were enacted ahead of the shipment’s arrival so that Marken team members were equipped and waiting at the airport to collect and deliver it on time to the consignee. Marken’s temperature-controlled facilities and trucks protected the sensitive shipment from harsh conditions while pre-planned mitigation strategies enabled teams to move swiftly and without delay.

Throughout each movement of the shipment, team members maintained contact with our project management and operations units to ensure a seamless delivery. Concurrently, the client was provided full end-to-end visibility into the shipments journey.

Thinking ahead, the team in Chicago had also prepared for the incoming weather by delivering other clients’ clinical shipments early to logistics facilities and pre-loading trucks to avoid any impact the weather might have on operations in the days to follow.


Marken experts across the country worked together during the polar vortex to execute a delivery in less than 24 hours, exceeding client expectations and achieving the hospital’s narrow window for delivery. This ensured the critical patient received the required compassionate use drug on-time and within specifications.

As the industry leader in personalized logistics, our flexibility to manage complex supply chains and routings at a short notice continues to set us apart and above the competition.


Marken is a wholly owned subsidiary of UPS and is a critical part of UPS Healthcare. With Polar Speed and Marken included, the UPS Healthcare division staffs 128 locations with 5,500 employees worldwide. Marken offers a state-of-the-art GMP-compliant depot network and logistic hubs for clinical drug product storage and distribution in 59 locations worldwide, while maintaining the leading position for Direct-to-Patient and Home Healthcare services, biological sample shipments and biological kit production. Marken’s dedicated 2,000+ staff members manage 154,000 drug product and biological sample shipments every month at all temperature ranges in more than 220 countries and territories and have orchestrated 14,000+ home healthcare visits. Additional services such as cell and gene supply chain services, ancillary material sourcing, storage and distribution, shipment lane verification and qualifications, as well as GDP, regulatory and compliance consultancy add to Marken’s unique position in the pharma and logistics industry.

Back to Index