Track & Trace for a pharmaceutical customer
Sanofi is Turkey’s second largest pharmaceutical company but has the largest pharmaceutical manufacturing plant and distribution center. At the manufacturing plant in Lüleburgaz, all major pharmaceutical formats, from capsules to liquids, are being processed. Most of the 24 lines are highly automated, involving bundler machines, shrink wrappers, case packers and full robotics. Sanofi produces in two shifts - six days per weeks and this represents a yearly production output of more than 150 million units of use . At its distribution center, they are handling yearly more than 120 million units of use. Every day, almost 3,000 drug shipments – and in peak seasons 4,000 shipments – are being delivered to pharmacies and hospitals all over the country.
Serialisation for pharma
In order to trace any pharmaceutical product in real-time, the Turkish “Medicine Tracking System” (MTS) requires information that is permanently updated on the state of medicines, the places of production, the warehouses and information on all logistic vehicles. In order to meet the MTS’ requirements, Sanofi needed a comprehensive data tracking system for all of its 24 production lines and additionally thay also needed it for its vast distribution center.
Antares Vision was awarded the project with a state-of-the-art traceability solution. Not only did they meet all tough technical requirements, they also developed a special smart solution to meet the very short project timeline. In less than seven months they implemented as many ready-to-plug-in modules into the lines as possible. The modular approach was faster compared to installing complete modules but it was also much safer. All devices – cameras, hand-held scanners, HMIs, thermal-transfer or ink-jet printers, labelers, and reject mechanisms – could be tested thoroughly off-site and on-site before the final installation.
The Antares Vision solution for Track & Trace
Along the customer production line, Antares Vision built ready-to-plug-in modules for serialization, bundling, case packing and palletizing:
- The serialization modules are marking unique codes on the secondary packaging
- Bundling modules are aggregating multiple units of use in a bundle that gets a parent number - on the top, on the leading edge or on the side
- Case packing modules aggregate multiple bundles with a parent number
- Palletizing modules aggregate multiple cases with a parent number
- In Sanofi’s distribution center, the packing station module is used for re-aggregation and decommissioning of containers. In the past, the case or pallet needed to be opened in order to modify its contents prior to shipment to a customer.
Cognex vision systems
Within these modules, vision systems from Cognex have been implemented. They are the world’s leading provider of vision systems, vision software, vision sensors and industrial ID readers.
At various stages of the production and packaging process, Cognex In-Sight vision systems are responsible for reading the DataMatrix codes which were assigned by the (MTS) Medicine Tracking System. They are printed on every single package at the Antares Vision Print and Apply stations. In-Sight vision systems have small dimensions of only 30mm x 30mm x 60mm, which makes them the world’s smallest self-contained smart cameras. So they are the ideal devices for the compact modules along Sanofi’s production line. These cameras deliver an excellent performance with an image capture rate of 60 frames per second thus enabling reliably reading of the 2-D-codes on the product bundles, even at peak production times.
No matter where the code is printed; on the top, the leading edge or any side of the package. The camera will locate it and read it. This is based on the In-Sight’s ability to identify and scan parent numbers in any location, meaning a huge advantage in terms of packaging duration and production costs. Therefore, different products for one or several clients can be grouped in the production process without the need for reconfiguring the vision system.
Thanks to the special integration engineering of both Antares Vision and Cognex, , the smart cameras include advanced code reading algorithms and achieve a reading rate of 99,9 %. This is performed by optimizing the Antares Vision lighting and automation technology in configuring the Cognex In-Sight Explorer software.
Even barcode labels that have been damaged during the production or handling process, or codes which are hard to read due to reflections from film-wrapped bundles, are reliably identified during the production processes by the In-Sight vision systems.
Traceability and quality assurance in pharma distribution and warehousing
This vision technology was also implemented at Sanofi’s distribution and logistics facilities. The DataMatrix codes on all packages are now read by Cognex In-Sight vision systems within Antares Vision packing station modules. The stations are equipped with the ergonomic DataMan handheld ID readers for handling packages in a manual way. These robust handheld scanners also use Cognex’ world-class and unique reading algorithms to decode 2-D-codes. Antares Vision's dedicated software (Warehouse Tracking System) guarantees serial number consistency while performing operations like pallet reworking, shipments, pick & pack and product recalls.
Achieving compliance with regulations
Following the installation of the Antares Vision Track & Trace systems together with Cognex products, Sanofi can now retrieve data from every single pharmaceutical product on the production line. They cab also do this during the distribution process until it reaches the reseller. The information is being processed in real-time. Each medicine can be tracked in the MTS of the Turkish Health Ministry.
Antares Vision has built in as much flexibility as possible across all the product chains and thus minimized the impact of the new Track & Trace system on the commercial production and distribution at Sanofi’s sites. The inclusion of Cognex's vision solutions paired with their leading code-reading algorithms are maximizing the degree of automation in the identification processes and safeguarding the traceability of Sanofi’s products at all stages.
VistaLink is the exclusive integrator for Antares Vision solutions in Benelux, Scandinavia, UK and Ireland. We are also a Partner System Integrator for Cognex hardware and software in the same regions.
Read about Antares Vision's solutions for pharmaceutical serialisation here.
The original article can be found on the Cognex website here.