A serialized guide to serialization #3
Serialization: it's not all about brand protection
Brand protection: you’ve heard it all before
We are now all very aware of the importance of monitoring your supply chain. You need to defend against opportunistic counterfeiters, cargo interception, theft, adulteration, and diversion. Your products are valuable, your supply chains complex, and your ultimate end-users relying on you for high-fidelity bona fide pharmaceutical products. You can’t afford mistakes, and you can’t let interceptors or mimicry dilute your output.
So that’s it, right? Get your serialization strategy in place, read part 2 of the guide, get aggregation sorted, and counterfeiters will be stymied. Perhaps. But what about transparency issues? Recalls and withdrawals? How do you ensure that your inventory is in order and being processed efficiently? Well – through serialization.
The not-so-usual suspects
In addition to meeting all compliance requirements, you should also aim to fully optimize your business’s supply chain – ideally, from raw materials to end user. Through a combination of track and trace at the upstream end, and serialization from manufacturer to retail or patient, it is not impossible to fully monitor your chain. However, you will not just be watching for counterfeiters, but a whole host of other issues. We have categorized those considerations into the following five types:
- Issues of backward logistics,
- Issues of asset transparency,
- Handling and transportation problems,
- Final delivery issues, and
- Storage issues.
Alongside brand protection, serialization will help your enterprise with all of the above. We will now examine each in turn.
Serialization as a tool to improve backward logistics
Backward, recall, or reverse logistics is the part of business process that refers to products moving upstream, rather than towards the end user. This may be due to a number of factors – from returns originating from a disgruntled customer – to the withdrawal of faulty products. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of working hours are spent improving the forward supply chain, but with ever-more complex supply chains becoming ever-more prevalent, it is becoming increasingly critical to optimize the reverse.
The majority of recall logistics involves the planning of how to manage the storage, recycling, or destruction of products moving from end-user to manufacturer – but there will also be an emphasis on managing returns and selling surplus. Serialization is crucial to the optimization of this process, as it allows the location, identification, and authentication of products moving back up the supply chain.
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This process is incomparably faster than in loop systems running without a serialization strategy, and yet more efficient when using aggregate data. The faster that products can be located and verified in the recall loop, the faster they can be sold on, analyzed for unidentified faults, or removed from circulation.
Managing issues of asset transparency with serialization
If asset visibility is poor, disruption to the supply chain will be rife. By embracing digital solutions and serialization, asset-intensive enterprises such as pharmaceutical firms can have a much clearer picture of the physical side of their business.
Asset visibility covers the identity, whereabouts, and operational status of all products, employees, buildings, and equipment. Until recently, complete asset visibility has been impossible. However, with the introduction and uptake of smart products, barcode identifiers, and serialization and aggregation data, it is now achievable.
If assets are transparent to the key decision-makers in an enterprise, then they can use advanced systems to predict order flows, delivery times, disruptions, and other live updates on their products. Without serialization, none of this is possible – equipment may degrade and fail unmonitored, products become lost in transit, and switching computer systems could result in legacy data being lost if unmaintained.
Serialization as a tool to minimize handling and transportation problems
Many products, particularly if part of a temperature-controlled logistics chain, will need to be kept in sensitive conditions. However, without effective serialization, products with varying requirements – one requiring a temperature above a certain point, another below it – may be packaged or transported simultaneously and damaged in the process. With the wealth of data that a serialization program brings, developing unique packages for your business’s operations – from storage to transport – is now easier than ever.
Serialization and product identification also allow for improvements to staff training, as mistakes can be identified and the appropriate parties informed and, if necessary, retrained.
Final delivery issues
Final delivery, or last-mile delivery, is the end of the supply chain – as products move into the customer’s hands. Problems in this part of the process can be expensive and incur legal issues, as failure to deliver this late-on can lead to massive consequential loss for clients, and incredibly tight turnaround windows for suppliers to make replacement shipments.
Not only will a serialization package ensure that issues are caught before the customer complains of a missing shipment, but some orders may be consolidated as larger consignments for part of their journey – simplifying the chain at points, and reducing the risk of human error.
Serialization also allows the supplier to verify that any issues the customer may have with delivery are not their responsibility. For example, if a client is claiming to have received items late, in poor working order, or not at all – and you have access to data attesting to the various checks along the route to the point of delivery – you can defend yourself with confidence.
Similarly, if a customer is not present for a delivery, or the delivery is refused by an employee or manager, serialization ensures that packages that make up part of a failed delivery are still being tracked.
Storage and serialization
Finally, serialization is useful for locating and monitoring the status of any products you have in storage – including any expiration dates, due checks, or damages due to accidents or acts of God. If new regulations are introduced, or your enterprise requires stored products to be disposed of after a certain amount of time, then serialized packaging can help you to store them in sensible orders in the first place.
It also helps your employees or contractors to identify the contents of packages, especially if there are many similar products in storage or circulation.