At some point in the lifecycle of a manufacturing company, business leaders may have to initiate a full-scale product recall. These situations are an unfortunate reality of the supply chain environment, as the automated production process can be prone to widespread development failures. With certain products, systematic flaws can result in an unsatisfied client base and ultimately contribute to an increased rate of customer churn. In other scenarios, however, product defects can inflict much more lasting damage than the loss of revenue, as they can pose a threat to the wellbeing of the general population. For example, automotive companies must act swiftly if a component's flaw is detected, as it could affect the performance of a line of vehicles and put every driver on the road in danger. Similar public safety concerns exist within the pharmaceutical industry. An unchecked shipment of tainted medicine could have a significantly damaging effect on patients across the country, particularly those who are already in a weakened state due to failing health.
Even treatments intended to prevent illnesses from occurring, such as vaccines, can be compromised during the production and shipment process, necessitating a full-scale recall before patients are harmed. With vaccines in particular, many of the intended recipients are toddlers and infants who are much more susceptible to infectious diseases and other ailments. This is why it is essential that manufacturers of sensitive materials have a robust barcode software system in place to quickly identify tainted products and pull them from shelves. In 2009, the British government ordered a recall of approximately 60,000 doses of a meningitis C vaccine in response concerns that the stock had become compromised, the Daily Mail reported. Researchers identified traces of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that can cause blood poisoning. Officials quickly acted to remove any potentially contaminated batches from circulation without further incident.
Enhancing inventory oversight
When dealing with a shipping system managing tens of thousands of product units, it can be easy for managerial oversight to deteriorate. However, a successful recall requires a precise inventory management system to identify and locate potentially tainted products. Integrating robust barcode software can further streamline this process and improve the effectiveness of a recall effort. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently conducted a study in conjunction with RTI International to determine the benefits provided by an enhanced barcode system. Researchers discovered that if current barcodes included additional information, recall operations could be greatly improved. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act requires vaccine manufacturers to keep records of their immunization's lot information. However, many vaccine labels in use today do not contain that information within their barcodes, forcing providers to fill it out by hand. In a recall scenario, the inability to automatically gather that data from units in various stages of the supply chain could prevent officials from correctly identifying potentially contaminated vaccines and removing them from circulation.
The study found that an enhanced barcode software system would not only facilitate those efforts, but it would also allow manufacturers and physicians to quickly locate patients who may have received tainted medication so that any needed medical attention could be provided. It would also increase the accuracy of data collected from immunization recording efforts.
Reaping the financial rewards
From an economic standpoint, the healthcare industry as a whole could benefit significantly from widespread adoption of robust barcode data collection systems. By gaining greater oversight across the delivery model, manufacturers could reduce the number of units lost or stolen during the shipping process. In addition, business leaders would have more information regarding the use of various vaccines in different communities and regions, allowing them to better allocate supplies. The study's researchers concluded that a barcode system upgrade would improve revenue from vaccine production and distribution by as much as $334 million over a 12-year period.