RFID Identifies Pharmaceuticals

Together with other partners, Turck Korea has implemented a complete serialization and identification system for pharmaceutical products – from the production plant to the dispatch warehouse

Counterfeit pharmaceutical products present health authorities and competition regulators with a great deal of problems. For this reason, the entire production and sales chain of pharmaceutical products will be made fully transparent in the future.

Together with other partners, Turck Korea introduced this so-called serialization for pharmaceutical manufacturers Daewon Pharm Co. Ltd. The cloud-based solution records the drugs from the production stage to storage in the dispatch warehouse.

Depending on the requirements, barcodes, data matrix codes, either OCR text recognition or RFID are used for identification. However, all identification technologies refer to the same database in the central data cloud.

  • The combination of RFID technology with optical sensors and ...

  • ... camera technology provides a powerful and reliable total solution

  • The RFID Bulk Reading Machine is avaliable in two variants: one for manual operation ...

  • ... and one for use on conveyor systems

  • The pilot project initially comprised the development and construction of ten bulk reading machines ...

  • ... and seven labeling machines

Serialization in the EU by 2019

The complete serialization of pharmaceuticals has to be introduced in the EU by 2019. It must be possible to identify all drug packaging without any uncertainty. Furthermore, this has to be possible at any point along the manufacturing and distribution chain. Several interfaces between the different systems are required, and all read and write devices must be able to access the same database in real time.

Serialization pilot project

Turck Korea together with other partners have developed a solution for Daewon Pharm, the South Korean pharmaceutical manufacturer, which could also set a precedent in Europe. The pilot project is an excellent example of automated serialization for pharmaceutical products. This involves a lot more than the actual identification with barcodes or RFID tags: The data not only has to be available in the system at individual points but also in a network, which in the final expansion stage runs through the entire production and distribution chain.

Turck Korea completed the automation part of the project, in which the company developed and built complete machines which print, affix, check and read the necessary codes and tags on different packaging units. These machines communicate in turn with the Keidas system, where they provide information on the production and packaging process.

Integrated labeling machine

A labeling machine that is integrated into the production process is provided at the beginning of production in the Daewon plants. The drug packages are provided here with an RFID tag which is written with the appropriate serial number. The boxes are also provided with a 2D code and plain text print containing the same information.

Hanmi/Turck RFID bulk reading machine

Turck developed an RFID bulk reading machine for the project and provided it with some products from its own portfolio. It uses RFID to identify all packs contained in a carton. RFID provides a major benefit compared to barcode technology: In bulk reading mode, RFID can read the entire content of a carton – up to 500 individual tags. To do this, the packer simply places the carton in the opening of the machine and the read operation starts automatically. A total of ten RFID antennas detect all the tags in the carton. One antenna moves inside the machine in order to exclude any duplicate readings or unread packs. Following the identification stage, the machine initiates the printing of a barcode and serial number label, which is stuck onto the outside of the carton for further identification and shipment.

Turck built both a manual version of the machine, in which employees place the cartons in the opening, as well as a conveyor belt version, in which the cartons move into the machine on a conveyor and are transported further for palletizing after identification. The compact machine is just 1.6 meters high and is very mobile.

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