Serious Serialization - Barcode Implementation Best Practices

Meagan Douglas
Wed, Nov 29, 2017
Serialization is gaining momentum in a wide range of settings.
Serialization is gaining momentum in a wide range of settings.

The pharmaceutical industry is facing serious disruption as regulators push manufacturers to embrace serialization. However, pharma companies aren't the only ones that need to put serious thought into gaining visibility across their supply chains.

The good news for pharma organizations, according to the FDA Law Blog, is that the U.S. Federal Drug Administration recently pushed serialization deadlines out a year, to November 27, 2018. However, whether your company is in pharmaceuticals or another sector facing supply chain disruption, you're likely feeling pressure to get moving on a serialization strategy.

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A study from MarketsandMarkets found the global market for track and trace solutions will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 17.3 percent for the period of 2017 to 2021. 

"Serialization is becoming invaluable because it gives organizations visibility into their operations."

Serialization is becoming invaluable because it gives organizations visibility into their operations across the entire supply chain. This is increasingly necessary as organizations work to prevent fraud, go after small efficiency gains that add up over time and work to keep pace with emerging customer demands for speed and quality in product delivery. Serialization is becoming critical as these emerging requirements are critical in a variety of industries.

What can businesses do in response? Serialization is sometimes viewed as an expensive solution smaller companies don't need. Organizations that work in a small geographic market may think they don't need end-to-end visibility because their customers are close. In practice, however, an effective serialization strategy can help these organizations create value throughout the supply chain. Barcode solutions and similar technologies aren't just useful for large, complex operations. Companies trying to respond to changing market demands need to look at how they can create new value through serialization to make the technology feasible in their specific settings.

Organizations that want to deliver value through serialization should consider these three tips as they work to get their barcoding program off the ground.

1. Pinpoint Key Areas of Opportunity

Maybe you have a remote warehouse that is always giving you trouble. Perhaps you struggle processing orders containing a specific material because that particular good is highly regulated. Many businesses have pain points that derail efficiency in the supply chain. Focusing on resolving those issues efficiently is vital in creating value from barcodes.

Being strategic about which issues your organization focuses on at first can allow you to get immediate value from a barcode implementation plan, then use that momentum for deeper deployments across the business.

2. Develop a Plan for Network Outages

You can't have your barcode system rendered useless because scanners aren't connected to the network. Ideally, the embedded software in barcode scanners and printers will connect to the network at all times to integrate with ERP systems and dedicated warehouse management systems. However, you need these serialization technologies to keep working in the event of an outage, especially at remote locations where network access may not be readily available.

Remote management tools can support a barcode strategy by allowing data to be gathered locally during an outage and updated to the primary configuration when the system becomes available again. Planning ahead for downtime events is key in ensuring serialization tactics don't run into roadblocks after initial implementation.

3. Formalize Barcoding Procedures

When will new barcodes be printed and affixed to goods? At which process checkpoints will users scan and log barcodes? These types of processes must be formalized and documented to serve as a foundation for a serialization strategy. Any inconsistency can break up the chain of custody for an item in a regulatory audit or leave organizations with limited visibility into an asset's disposition.

With serialization gaining momentum across the supply chain, businesses must take a strategic approach to not only get in on this trend, but think about how they can derive value from barcoding.

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