Building Pedigrees on the Packaging Line
By Daphne Allen
Hapa & Laetus Inc. (Rockaway, NJ) doesn’t take sides in the bar-code-versus-RFID-for-pedigree debate. But many of its customers are.
“Most customers we are talking to are not convinced that RFID is a solid solution to date, it seems to us,” says Jeff O’Neill, director of Laetus in North America. “It doesn’t appear to be that reliable a solution at the component level yet, with cost concerns, reliability issues, and RF interference with materials leading to high failure-to-read rates.”
Instead, the pharmaceutical industry “seems to be leaning toward 2-D Data Matrix,” O’Neill reports. “It is small, has large information capacity, can be read omnidirectionally, only requires 20% contrast to be read (whereas traditional bar codes need 70%), and can be defaced up to 30% and still be read.”
Laetus Tracking wt works with variable-data printers from firms like Wolke, Domino, Sato, and Zebra; drivers for others are under way.
(Photo By: Daniel Guzman)
Laetus is prepared to handle requests for both bar code scanning and RFID reading on its Tracking wt Systems for in-line packaging systems, but O’Neill is seeing more requests for Data Matrix bar codes these days. The company has developed an expandable and flexible solution designed to work with a variety of packaging and printing units on a full-scale line.
Laetus Tracking wt (for web technology) features a system that manages data acquisition, printing, verification, and track and trace, all connected and managed via one Ethernet network established on the packaging line. A list of serialized item numbers would be downloaded from a number-generating software program that resides on the customer’s server to the Tracking wt System installed on a cartoner, for instance. Next, a printer would produce a 2-D Data Matrix code encoded with the Serialized Global Trade Item Number (SGTIN) on the carton, being the unit of sale. The Laetus Tracking wt would then acquire the code, verify the number against the originally provided list, and then enter this carton number into a list of commissioned numbers for aggregation. The controller would then aggregate the carton numbers to a unique SGTIN for a shrink pack and trigger a print-and-apply labeler to produce a label with a unique SGTIN 2-D code for the shrink pack. The shrink pack SGTIN would then be acquired, verified, and logged for aggregation of the shrink packs to a case that would have a print-and-apply labeler produce the case label with its unique SGTIN 2-D Data Matrix code. This sequence would repeat to aggregate the cases to a pallet. At the end of the production run, the Laetus Tracking wt System will upload a final production file back to the customer’s server that contains the entire parent-to-child packaging relationship from carton unit of sale to the final shipping pallet. This information is then taken by the drug packager to satisfy the first e-pedigree for the production run.
The system is a modular design and can be easily expanded to include other packaging and labeling steps.