Print and apply labelling in the pharmaceutical industry

  • By Trevor Nichols
  • August 07, 2015
  • Life Sciences
  • Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical packaging lines face decreasing downtime, increasing speed, the need to minimise costs and maximise profits. Those pressures are only set to intensify. Amidst all this is the move towards item-level serialisation.

The European Union’s Directive 2011/62/EU is expected to come into force in 2018. It demands that all pharmaceutical products distributed within the EU feature serialisation. In plain terms: each individual packet or bottle of medication needs its own unique code. The aim of the new legislation is to facilitate clear traceability of pharmaceuticals - from factory to pharmacy to patient.

So are existing print and apply labelling systems up to the job? Or are production line delays on the horizon? Here’s a quick look at how yesterday’s labels were applied – and what you can expect from tomorrow’s technology.

The limitations of print and apply technology

The earliest print and apply machines may have improved production speeds but they also introduced a brand new set of problems – mostly due to mechanical break down. Then there were the countless labels being spoiled, creased or applied out of shape. It generated high levels of unscheduled downtime, which costs money, and made the packaging line unpredictable.

Many of the same challenges exist today: label jams, broken ribbons and missed cases are familiar complaints for inferior technology. But the move to item-level serialisation has been one of the drivers in a period of huge progress in the design of print and apply labelling systems. The clear aim is to reduce downtime while improving coding quality at high throughput.

Necessity is very often the mother of invention.

The future of print and apply technology

Today’s packaging environment is demanding. Machinery must be compatible with an increasing variety of substrates at ever-increasing speeds. The margin for error is understandably slim, yet today’s technology is up to the challenge.

With modern solutions you can expect built-in memory settings that ensure job changeovers are rapid and prevent printing errors. Easy to use interfaces simplify job setup, configuration and control options. There’s more variety to where you position the label – and more consistency once you have set the position. No creasing. No label dropping. And stand systems make label application even more reliable.

Will the new technologies force an overhaul of your production line? Not at all. They integrate easily with legacy technology, work with a variety of platforms (no need for extra drivers) and are compact enough to slot neatly into your packaging operations. Ribbons and consumables are easy to change. Along with fewer moving parts, systems require less maintenance and are more reliable.

Tomorrow’s technology today...

Here at Domino we have created advanced print and apply technology that can be seamlessly integrated with a coding automation platform called QuickDesign. It allows you to combine fixed label templates with variable data feeds in real-time, through one linked computer. Essentially you can print the generic label, add a unique code and apply the label to the pharmaceutical packaging in one smooth process.

The move to item-level serialisation is a tough challenge for the pharmaceutical industry. But it might just end up making packaging processes more efficient than ever before – along with the benefit of secure brands, and ultimately, healthy patients.

If you have any questions about how technology can help you meet the item-level serialisation challenge, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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