Coding Packs for France (CIP13): Is Your Equipment Also Suitable for Serialization?
The need for Data Matrix codes on all pharmaceutical packs in France, from 1st January 2011, catalysed a flurry of activity as manufacturers scrambled to install printers, vision systems and pack handling equipment to get themselves ready. The good news was that the code format (GS1 ECC200 Data Matrix) was the same as was (and is) being proposed for the future pack-level traceability schemes in the EU, USA and (eg) Brazil. Therefore, the supposed side benefit for many manufacturing companies was that the equipment needed for the CIP13-containing Data Matrix code was the same type of equipment needed for any eventual full serialization programmes that might crop up. Capex investment and implementation costs were a one-off and two birds could be hit by the same stone.
Well, yes. If you are one of the companies that chose wisely. If you cut some corners to save money during CIP13 preparations you may have some upgrading to do before you are ready for full unit-level serialization.
The legal requirement for France is to incorporate a fixed CIP13 number (effectively an SKU number or pseudo-GTIN) plus batch number and expiration date, into an ECC200 datamatrix code. Therefore the code is batch-specific not pack-specific, and only changes when the batch number or expiry date changes.
The unchanging code can thus be verified on the line after printing using either optical character verification (OCV) or optical character recognition (OCR). As a general rule, the OCV option is easier to implement and requires lower spec (and cheaper) kit because it is just looking for the presence, absence or quality of a pre-loaded visual pattern (in this case the invariant code for that batch). This doesn’t work for unit-level serialization, because by definition every code coming down the line is different. The OCR method is needed, which analyses and “reads” each code and compares it in real time to what was supposed to have been printed upstream. This takes more computing power, needs faster synchronisation and requires higher-end vision systems.
The more experienced purveyors of line equipment to pharmaceutical manufacturers have seen this coming and advised their clients to purchase suitably nimble capability the first time around. But not everyone has been so clearsighted. One major equipment vendor I spoke to predicts that manufacturers which chose to save money when implementing CIP13 by going for competitors’ products with the minimal possible specifications may have issues when switching on their OCR capability to address the need for serialization. If you think this might be you, do some testing early before compliance deadlines loom.
To avoid these and other strategic and tactical mis-steps, measure twice and cut once, as the old carpenter’s adage goes. Blue Sphere Health can help you to evaluate your short and long term needs for serialization and epedigree and put in place solutions that work today and also put you in a good position to deal with foreseeable challenges tomorrow. Contact us for a confidential discussion of your requirements for authentication, serialization, epedigree or any other aspect of pharmaceutical security.
For a primer on all aspects of serialization and traceability in pharma, buy the new report I have written for www.securingpharma.com
In the meantime, happy holidays and meilleurs voeux pour 2012.
Photo by Francois Schnell from flickr
Tags: Brazil, CIP13, consultancy, European Union, France, pedigree, serialization, strategy, USA