Barcoding in the Biotech Sector

Posted by: Fiona - Product Lifecycle Manager at Amici

Barcode scanning is a tool which has become well-established in many industries across the globe. It delivers proven efficiencies and cost-savings in many environments, from the warehouse to the supermarket checkout. Barcode labelling and scanning can provide huge benefits in terms of inventory accuracy and efficiency, yet this tool is often overlooked in the biotech sector.

Here we discuss five reasons to incorporate barcoding in your biotech business.

1. Eliminate errors – Scan by batch.

Look for a barcoding solution that links unique barcodes to the batch rather than product.

Errors in inventory accuracy can have huge consequences in the biotech and GMP manufacturing sectors. Picking the wrong product or batch can result in wasted time and money, or more seriously, could render a final product ineffective or even hazardous to health. The latest inventory software holds many advantages over paper-based processes to improve inventory accuracy. However, no system is immune from human error or non-compliance. Human error has been shown to have dire consequences in the pharmacy sector, a risk which has been reduced since the EU mandated that most prescription medicines must have a unique barcode label. The biotech sector suffers from the same risks – similar packaging is used for different products, and packaging is identical between batches.

It’s not just picking the right product from the shelf that can cause issues. Poor handwriting, keyboard data entry or even eyesight can create all sorts of errors in both paper-based and digital systems, from keying in a batch number incorrectly to selecting the wrong batch on screen.

Using barcode labels can have a huge impact on data accuracy – almost eliminating human error. In fact, barcode data entry has been shown to be over 10,000 times more accurate than keyboard data entry. In practice, the implementation of a barcoding solution for the picking process can help reduce human error to almost nil, reducing costs and risks to your business.

2. Traceability.

GMP businesses should look for a system which offers options for auditing the receipt, picking and final use of raw materials. Scanned data should be subject to electronic signatures and be fully traceable with user details and timestamps.

Accuracy and traceability are critical in the pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors, and particularly so in the event of a recall. Barcode scanning paired with a comprehensive inventory software solution is a no-brainer where inventory accuracy and traceability is key. Barcode scanning offers an easy way of tracking your raw materials, from initial receipt and generation of the label itself, to picking and even returning the item to the warehouse.

The best systems will enable the printing of unique barcodes for every single container you wish to apply them to. They should also allow you to search both existing and historic inventory by barcode number, enabling the full history of the batch to be quickly traced and investigated should any problems arise.

3. Save time – Scan your stock count.

Save yourself the headache of a manual stock count by looking for a system which enables barcode scanning.

Perhaps the best-known advantage of barcoding is saving time. For users of paper-based inventory systems, a huge amount of time is wasted writing down product and batch information. Even users of digital solutions will spend time manually searching for and selecting every item picked from or returned to the warehouse. Barcode scanning adds a great deal of efficiency to this process, updating the product status in the software as you scan each item.

Best-in-class solutions will incorporate barcode-scanning technology into stock counting processes. Not only will this have benefits for inventory accuracy, barcode scanning can make stock counts a breeze.

4. Make it Easy.

You don’t need a doctorate in barcoding to use a scanner! Modern wireless scanners are readily available and can be used on-site or in a separate area for verifying picked products. Barcoding solutions can be implemented easily and do not require extensive training to use. Rather than manually keying in or selecting data from a long list of complicated batch numbers, scanning does all of the hard work for you – leaving you only to click away until scanning is complete. Most systems should tell you where you have made a mistake such as scanning in an incompatible barcode. The best solutions will enable the printing and generation of barcodes to be done within the software rather than relying on externally printed labels – making it even easier for you by containing all functionality within a single familiar system.

5. Simple Labelling – Use QR codes.

QR Codes can carry up to several hundred times the information on a conventional barcode, and can be printed and read at a size almost ten times smaller. Not only that, QR codes can be read from any angle or direction. This makes QR Codes perfect for easy scanning of small labels

Cramming lots of information on a tiny label can make labels hard-to-read. The inclusion of a barcode precludes the need for overly detailed labelling since the barcode can be linked to comprehensive product and batch information in the inventory software. The best solutions will allow you to customise your own labels entirely, from using just the barcode on the label, to including other important information such as product description, batch number and expiry date.

Barcodes can be printed on all manner of labels to suit your requirements: from labels which will stay put at low temperatures, to those which are resistant to solvents.

 

You may also find the following articles useful:

Managing stock expiry in your lab.

Improving Inventory Accuracy through Cycle Counting – As easy as ABC