There were 41,354 organ transplants performed in the U.S. in 2021, with over 106,000 people still waiting for a life-saving procedure. Donated organs are often shipped across the nation to an eligible match, making organ transport one of the most crucial components of the transplant process. Seemingly minor delays or missed flights can be the difference between life and death for someone waiting for these time-critical shipments.

Whether you are shipping organs or essential aerospace parts, time-critical shipping requires a high level of urgency, accuracy, and full visibility. This article discusses the importance of visibility for time-critical shipments, challenges to achieving visibility, and how advanced technology helps shippers track real-time location and conditions of critical cargo in transit. 

What are Time-Critical Goods? 

Time-critical shipping is a guaranteed, urgent service for goods that need to move quickly or within a highly specified time frame. Time-critical shipments are primarily used in life-threatening or life-saving circumstances or situations when late or non-delivery has significant negative ramifications. This could involve aircraft and automotive components, semiconductors, production line parts, or critical healthcare goods such as:

  • Transplant organs
  • Blood and biopsy samples for testing and diagnosis
  • Pharmaceuticals and vaccines for treatment or clinical trials
  • Life-saving medical equipment

Organ transport and time-critical healthcare shipments can be the difference between life and death and require special handling, care, and real-time visibility. 

Why Visibility for Time-Critical Goods is Vital

Visibility is critical for any supply chain to monitor risks, minimize costs, meet customer demand, and streamline efficiencies. It is no longer merely an add-on feature for logistics solutions, as supply chain teams rely on accurate visibility updates to maintain production schedules and achieve on-time in-full order deliveries. Lack of visibility and delays in standard shipping can negatively impact a company’s operations, cause unexpected costs, or disrupt customer relationships — these issues are even more pronounced for time-critical shipments.

Visibility is absolutely vital for time-critical shipping due to tight time constraints and the delicate nature of goods. “Visibility” in logistics typically refers to location tracking, and undoubtedly this is a cornerstone for time-critical shipments as well. Real-time location data ensures that shipments are loaded on flights and in transit as scheduled and provides immediate alerts when risk events threaten on-time delivery. Every minute counts when shipping organs and other life-saving goods, so accurate location visibility is essential.

In addition to location, time-critical healthcare shipments often require advanced condition tracking. Temperature, humidity, light exposure, and shock events can have severe consequences on organs, tissue samples, pharmaceuticals, and vaccines. Any deviation from condition requirements can render the goods unusable at the expense of a human life. 

The importance of visibility in time-critical shipments cannot be overstated, particularly regarding organ transport, where delays often have severe consequences. There are nearly 106,000 people in the U.S. waiting for organ transplants, with 58 national nonprofit organ procurement organizations (OPOs) managing collection and transportation once organs become available. Organs last only hours outside of a body, so the logistics process requires impeccable coordination and targeted visibility. Misrouted packages, delays that aren’t communicated, and missed deliveries mean crucial organs get discarded, and patients are left to wait for another match. 

Challenges for Visibility for In-Transit

Time-critical shipping delays can result in substantial profit losses, missed opportunities, and even loss of life. Somehow, even under these dire circumstances, industry statistics report that one in three time-critical shipments is delayed and does not arrive when needed. How can this be? The answer lies in visibility, but several challenges to achieving full visibility for time-critical shipments in transit include logistics complexity, narrow safety margins, and outdated technology.

Logistics Network Complexity

Time-critical shipments require a high level of logistical complexity to arrange transport from an origin lab, hospital, or warehouse to an airport, then from a destination airport to final delivery. For example, consider that there are 100M+ transport options for a single shipment traveling from Boston to San Francisco, with varying transit times and service levels. Additionally, unforeseeable factors like traffic, accidents, and weather create challenges and are rarely considered when planning time-critical shipping. 

Narrow Margin for Error

As the name implies, time-critical shipments are incredibly sensitive to time constraints and have very little room for error. Even minor missteps by a dispatcher, courier, or cargo handler can derail an entire shipment. Quickly identifying and managing deviations from a planned schedule is an essential component of visibility but can be challenging to implement considering the vast number of possible events that could alter a shipment’s course and threaten on-time delivery.

Outdated Tracking Tools

Despite increasingly complex networks and growing demand for visibility, many shippers rely on outdated GPS technology for time-critical shipments. Traditional GPS trackers can show location but require manual programming on routes and schedules to identify risks or delays in transit. Each shipment requires manual tracker programming — which is labor-intensive, expensive, and prone to error. 

Solutions for Time-Critical Shipments

In a world where we have real-time updates at our fingertips for DoorDash deliveries and Amazon orders, there is no excuse for poor visibility when shipping organs and other high-value, time-critical goods. Fortunately, technology companies like AirSpace are bridging the gaps in time-critical shipping through advanced solutions in three high-priority areas: speed, real-time tracking, and instantaneous, automated communication.


When it comes to time-critical shipments, speed is non-negotiable. Archaic processes of calling or emailing for quotes and updates can delay critical shipments by hours and cause irreparable damage to goods and production schedules. Automated, AI-powered systems for instant quoting, routing, and driver dispatch eliminate the need for manual requests and save an average of two hours per shipment — providing immediate value and improved metrics for on-time delivery.

Real-Time Tracking

Time-critical shipping demands real-time updates and shipment visibility at every leg of the journey. A seemingly slight delay in courier pickup, flight takeoff, or cargo unloading can become a much bigger issue if it goes unnoticed and unreported. Real-time GPS tracking makes it possible to see a shipment’s location every minute of the journey — on the road or in the air. Advanced tracking devices also provide visibility into temperature, humidity, motion, and light exposure for medical specimens and organ transport.

Instant, Automated Communication

Flight cancellations, traffic jams, and weather delays are inevitable in logistics, but immediate notification and swift action can minimize late delivery risks for time-critical shipments. GPS trackers paired with real-time automated platforms alert shippers when a delay threatens on-time delivery or a temperature excursion threatens the viability of goods and gives them time to re-route or take corrective actions to avoid catastrophic consequences.

High-Tech Trackers for Location & Condition Status of Time-Critical Goods

Advanced technology platforms require equally advanced tracking hardware for their life-saving time-critical shipments. AirSpace’s AirTrace solution relies on Tive trackers to deliver time-critical location and condition updates for their most precious shipments. Tive trackers capture real-time data on critical shipment conditions and translate that data into instant, actionable alerts, allowing shippers to proactively respond when exceptions occur

Shipping organs and other time-critical goods with Tive provides the following features and benefits:

  • Unprecedented location accuracy in tracking a single package to within a 3-foot range.  
  • Real-time condition sensors monitor temperature, light, shock, and humidity and send automated alerts when exceptions occur.
  • Cloud-based recordkeeping to comply with FDA regulations.
  • Global cellular coverage includes 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, and LTE,.  
  • The flexibility of GPS, WiFi, and cellular connectivity.
  • Non-lithium battery options for improved safety and sustainability.
  • Reliable single-use tracker options to eliminate reverse logistics challenges.
  • 24/7 monitoring to ensure shipments are not delayed or damaged..

Time-critical and life-saving cargo demands the highest level of shipment visibility. Tive’s industry-leading  multi-sensor trackers and software solutions enable shippers to monitor their time-critical shipments in real-time every time. Tive provides more than location visibility through advanced condition monitoring and instantaneous excursion alerts. Eliminate manual tracking processes and monitor your most valuable cargo in real-time every step of the way. Schedule a demo with Tive today to get started.

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