Coded packs provide automated track-and-trace capabilities and help fight counterfeiting.
When a large international pharmaceutical company contacted Pineberry Manufacturing Inc., it was looking for a way to serialize its products, support traceability throughout its supply chain and aggregate erect cartons. The technology had to comply with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) in the U.S., Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) in the European Union and other market requirements worldwide.
The manufacturer needed compact equipment capable of printing and verifying serialized codes on erect cartons and aggregating cartons in batches of 12. A few weeks later, the CartonTrac serialization and aggregation system was introduced. As erect cartons come down the conveyor and onto the CartonTrac system, high-quality, serialized print is applied to each carton. A camera vision system scans the printing to verify all required data is present, applied correctly and is easily readable. If there’s a print issue, a pneumatic reject system blows any flawed cartons off the production line.
Once serialized, the gantry robot gently grabs and stacks cartons, creating tidy bundles (three rows of four). The high-speed gantry system moves at speeds up to 8m/sec. Servo motors not only support high speed, but also steady and accurate performance, plus offer flexibility to modify stacking patterns as required.
After the cartons have been stacked, the bundle of serialized products is transferred to an automatic banding station. A second camera system takes a picture of the bundle and records all individual pack codes. A label containing a single QR code that combines all the data from each individual pack is printed and blown onto the clear band. The bundle then exits the CartonTrac system to await loading into a master carton where another label is added containing data about all its contents.
Further downstream when the master cartons are palletized, another label can be added to provide a complete description of the contents of the pallet load.
“As the cartons are combined, the serial number of the aggregated unit (parent) is associated with the multiple serial numbers of the individual cartons (child) contained within it, thus builds a parent-child relationship as products move through the packaging stages of the pharmaceutical supply chain. It’s a full track-and-trace solution that leverages aggregation and helps to improve the customer’s inventory management performance,” states David McCharles, president of Pineberry Manufacturing. He continues, “For example, if you need to determine a batches’ contents but do not want to open the case, you can now scan the QR code on the outside of the case to get the serial number, and then using the aggregation parent-child relationship, you can determine the identity of all the contents. This is one of the reasons that aggregation can ease the material-handling aspects of serialized projects in a warehouse environment, while maintaining the safety of consumers and ease-of-mind for pharmaceutical companies.”
Manufacturers, wholesale distributors, repackagers and pharmaceutical supply chains face significant packaging line upgrades to meet the current and emerging regulations. However, there are benefits to be gained beyond compliance and keeping counterfeit drugs out of the marketplace.
With serialization, wholesalers are able to identify inventory down to a specific unit from open or sealed cases, track it internally and improve inventory management. Aggregation also simplifies cycle counting, which wholesalers periodically do to check physical inventory against what their system thinks they have. Aggregation allows them to scan just the sealed case and instantly know the identity of each individual unit. The CartonTrac serialization and aggregation system provides a practical, cost-effective way for pharmaceutical companies to ensure their products conform to current and upcoming global track and trace requirements.
For more information, visit www.pineberryinc.com.
*As seen in the PACK EXPO Show Daily – Tuesday, October 16, 2018.