What the User Sees

Applications are available to speed operations and ensure quality, but are they user-friendly?

By Christina Elston
 
Pharmacists and other authorized users can use RxAuthentication to verify drug pedigrees.

Software products have been created to build accuracy, efficiency, speed, and cost savings into many areas of the packaging industry. It’s easy enough, given distance and perspective, to see the benefits of these applications. But what are they like for the professionals who use them? We present a few examples.

XML LABELS MADE EASY

Imagine sitting down to a screen that looks much like MS Word, but gives you the ability to create XML label information quickly, efficiently, and accurately. That’s what you’ll find through publishing software from PTC (Needham, MA), according to program director Vi Kellersohn. “It looks like a desktop publishing tool, but enforces structure and adds intelligence to the content via XML tagging,” she says.

The application—which takes only days to learn—alerts users if a required element (i.e., patient information, ingredients, dosage) is missing, and it allows label information to be pulled directly from a database without retyping. “You don’t have an issue where the carton says one thing, and the insert says something else,” says Kellersohn. Style sheets format the label automatically for publishing, and multiple users can work on components of the same label at the same time, Kellersohn says. Information for other packaging components, such as for inserts, bottles, and cartons, can also be created.

SUPPLYING PATIENT SAFETY

Imagine shipping your pharmaceutical product out to distributors and knowing that everyone in the supply chain can ensure that each bottle or jar of product is authentic. This is what the RxAuthentication System from Supply-Scape (Woburn, MA) makes possible, according to senior program manager Dan Walles.

Manufacturers send product data and Electronic Product Codes (EPCs)—tagged on individual products via RFID or 2D Datamatrix codes—to the application over the Internet. Distribution partners such as pharmacists can scan products, go online, and access that information at no cost. Pfizer began using the system with Viagra at the beginning of the year, and it has seen participation from wholesalers and retailers as well as pharmacists. “We actually have authentications that are happening in the order of thousands,” says Walles. “When we first started we thought that this was something that was only going to be on the pharmacist’s bench. Patient safety is not just a manufacturer’s concern.”

APPROVALS STREAMLINED

Imagine you are a packaging designer trying to get approval for a new bottle label. Three of your four approvers are traveling, and you need feedback in two days. Time to run for the FedEx pickup? Not if you have PaxPro from Paxonix (Parsippany, NJ). “One customer implementing PaxPro told us that they nearly paid for installation of our product for an entire year in what they saved in Federal Express charges,” says Paxonix vice president of marketing and business development Kent St. Vrain.

Just create a route template laying out where the file needs to go before it comes back to you. An e-mail including a link informs each approver that the file is waiting for them. That person logs in, comments, and the file is then automatically moved along to the next person. The software is 21 CFR Part 11 compliant, and it leaves people free to work the way they generally do. “It’s just that it goes like lightning instead of molasses,” says St.Vrain.

Labeling templates in PaxPro are 21 CFR Part 11 compliant, providing an audit trail.

PALLETS PERFECTED

Imagine that you’re a packaging engineer charged with determining the impact of a product redesign on shipping needs. With Cape Pack from Cape Systems (Dallas), you can specify the shape and starting size of the primary package, how much it can vary in size, and how many you want in an arrangement. The software can then help determine final product sizing, intermediate and bundle packaging, secondary shippers or case sizes, and the resulting pallet pattern, using graphics to display how things fit. Basically, it paints you a pallet picture.

One packaging engineer using Cape Pack was able to make a big cut in transportation costs. “By modifying the primary package and how it was arranged in a case, he was able to design a new case size, which resulted in more cases per container and thus, fewer container loads that needed to be shipped,” says marketing director Heidi Larsen. “He realized a savings of more than 200 containers, which meant a savings of more than $2 million.”

PACKAGE SAMPLES MADE VIRTUAL

Imagine that your folding cartons are coming off the line, and you notice that the bar code printed on the bottom of the carton has ended up under the glued-down flap. This happened to a customer of Esko-Graphics (Ghent, Belgium) before it implemented Scope, part of Esko’s Design Life-Cycle Management solution. Scope workflow products bring the structural and graphic design workflows together early in the process, says director of marketing Mark Vanover.

The application allows graphics designers to, for instance, “fold up” the package to see how that affects design. Structural designers can see where the graphics are located on the package. Anyone with a browser and a plug-in can work with the files, and see the package as a 3-D rendering. “You can do anything with it virtually that you can visually,” says Vanover, including folding, unfolding, and changing position and lighting. “You can even see the thickness of the fluting of the piece of cardboard, if it’s corrugated,” Vanover says.

PaxPro software can help remote users edit and approve labels.

A FINELY TUNED WAREHOUSE

Imagine a warehouse that runs like a finely tuned machine. This is the idea behind HighJump Warehouse Advantage, according to HighJump Software (Minneapolis) president and general manager Chris Heim. Each worker arriving for a shift signs onto a handheld terminal, which gives the worker directions throughout the shift, instructing them to pick up materials for delivery, or to put materials away.

The system interfaces with the order and delivery systems and uses workers as resources to get the necessary work done efficiently. It also keeps a full audit trail of who did what and when, providing a full genealogy of the product. “Every action within that warehouse is optimized,” says Heim. Warehouse management customers can expect to achieve a labor reduction of 25% because of increased efficiency. They also increase their accuracy to the 99% range. Time for mock recalls can be cut from an average of eight hours to an average of 25 minutes.

MACHINERY MONITORED

Imagine being a packaging line operator who has to keep track of anything and everything that stops or slows your line with just pen and paper. “Most companies are pretty much flying blind out there,” says Scott Klages, vice president of Parsec (Brea, CA). “What they have is a clipboard.”

The company’s TrakSys software “allows you to determine accurately, in real time, how each of your packaging lines is running,” Klages says. When a line stops, the operator is prompted to click a button on an event monitor to enter the reason. Each reason for stoppage has a preset time. If the line is stopped beyond that time, the operator is prompted to choose from a menu of reasons for the delay.

An operations director at a major pharmaceutical company used TrakSys to determine that web breaks on the firm’s outserter were slowing down one of its bottle lines. They implemented a new stripper plate design with a bearing on the end that resulted in less tape friction, the manager reports. “After making this change we were able to use the TrakSys software to document an 80% reduction in downtime because of web breaks on the outserter.”

PaxPro enables users to create GANTT charts.

PROOFING MADE PRODUCTIVE

Imagine that rather than sitting down and cross-proofing two versions of a label, hoping your eye can spot the defects, you had software to spot them for you. That’s how the Avia proofing system from Mnemonics works. “The objective of Avia really is to replace the human visual system,” says Mike Negin.

The operator first chooses a master to compare with the file to be proofed. Electronic files, scanned sheets, or even printing plates can all be used. The software compares the files and provides a rank-ordered list, by size, of the defects it found. The operator then clicks on each flaw and decides whether or not the flaw is important.

If the flaw is important, the operator can generate a PDF or HTML report or can mark up the sheet itself and take it to the press operator. “The HTML file shows you the flaws just as the operator would see the flaws,” Negin explains. One Mnemonics customer found that the system allowed them to train new proofreaders more quickly and to proof in languages not native to their proofreaders. “They were able to proofread at more than a 90% improvement in speed with better accuracy,” says Negin.

QUALITY CONNECTIONS

Imagine being a director of quality and dealing with 12 disconnected systems to manage deviations, investigations, complaints and change controls. That was the case for a customer of Sparta Systems (Holmdel, NJ) before implementing TrackWise. The off-the-shelf, fully configurable, enterprise Web-based tracking software platform electronically logs, manages, querys, reports, and trends quality and regulatory incidents and action items, according to manager of operations Steve Cagle.

“TrackWise helps organizations increase efficiencies and achieve compliance by linking and consolidating related events and actions, automating workflow, implementing business rules, and facilitating trending and reporting across quality systems and related work areas,” Cagle says. When the aforementioned customer implemented TrackWise to manage compliance-related issues, “in addition to providing the much needed integration between the various applications, the company saved $5.6 million and is recognizing an ongoing return on investment of $300,000 per year,” Cagle says.

But the benefits of this and other applications don’t stop there. The latest version of virtually any piece of software is always just around the corner—bringing more efficiencies for the company, and improved functionality to make it even more friendly for the user.

 

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