Where to serialize in the production process?

Many companies have already deduced that this involves more than just printing serial numbers on packaging – managing and allocating number ranges in particular is a completely new ball game. The situation is exacerbated by the plethora of country-specific regulations that are expected.

If it is simply a question of cost, it makes sense to print the serial numbers on the sheet before the individual carton boxes are produced. However, this approach is suitable only for orders that do not include expiry date and batch information, otherwise the risk of frequent over production is substantial. Apart from that, this process results in a relatively high amount of serial numbers being scrapped. To start with, the pharmaceutical manufacturer must take a basic decision about whether serialization could be outsourced – indeed, if the sheets are to be pre-coded, this task is virtually always performed by a carton box manufacturer.

This aspect also plays a role if the code is not to be applied until the carton boxes have already been die-cut. To achieve optimum code quality with the inkjet printers still most widely used, serializing the unglued cartons is recommended. Here too, serialization is best undertaken by the carton box manufacturer. If a pharmaceutical enterprise decides to apply the codes to the glued cartons itself, it will usually add a coding module to an existing packaging line so that erected and filled boxes can be coded after cartoning. Alternatively, a coding machine for single flat carton boxes may be an option if it can be used for “near-line” coding for several packaging lines.

From the technical process viewpoint, however, the best place to apply coding is currently once the cartons have been filled. This generates the lowest wastage, particularly with small batch sizes or a short expiry date, and the logistics and warehousing remain straightforward. But this is not the ideal solution in terms of speed and efficiency. The optimum position in the process chain for serialization therefore ultimately depends on the specific circumstances – a universal solution appears rather unlikely. It is quite possible that a company may employ several different variants: then it pays to know which options are actually feasible.

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Stefan Rowinski
Stefan Rowinski
About Stefan Rowinski

Product Management | Atlantic Zeiser