Case Study

Efficient Track And Trace Solutions For International Pharmaceutical Company


Acino International AG headquartered in Zurich is a Swiss-based international pharmaceutical company with 1,900 employees. Acino is a leader in the production of complex dosage forms and, as a contract manufacturer, offers its customers a complete service for their manufacturing needs. It has production facilities in Switzerland, Ukraine and Estonia. To serve its international customers quickly and reliably, Acino relies increasingly on serialisation and aggregation solutions by WIPOTEC-OCS from Kaiserslautern. The Aesch production plant in the Swiss canton of Basel- Landschaft uses three different WIPOTEC-OCS solutions. The TQS-SP machine for single pack serialisation, the TQS-CP for case aggregation, and the TQS-HC-A for tamper evidence, serialisation and weighing.

Pioneer in Track & Trace
It must be possible to precisely identify and trace prescription medicines worldwide along the entire value and supply chain. Machine-readable codes on the packaging ensure unique product assignment for this purpose and form the basis for counterfeit-proof drugs in pharmacies. Depending on the country, the labelling requirement for Track & Trace also includes higher-level logistics units or trade levels.

Track & Trace and the technology needed for it found its way to Acino several years ago. The key area apart from serialisation was having the necessary flexibility in the line – the aim being to have as much room for development as possible for the line staff. Having a presence in global markets with its own products and filling orders of international customers are basic requirements. So it became necessary to find solutions that significantly simplified handling of the logistics units where throughput was higher and at the same time made it possible for the operating staff to run the lines in 24/5 operation with a manageable amount of training and a minimal amount of servicing.

Serialisation: As compact as possible
For serialisation, Acino relies on an ultra-compact all-in-one serialisation machine. With the TQS-HC-A, serialisation and tamper-proof sealing of folding boxes can be achieved on the smallest footprint. The weighing function is used to perform a completeness check. Boxes with faulty codes are ejected into their own lockable rejection bin, upstream of the weighing belt, while packs with incorrect weight have their own ejection system, immediately downstream of the weighing belt. The intuitive operation of all components is done via common software interface. According to Bartlomiej Sedek, Manager of Engineering at Acino Parma AG, Acino was extremely impressed with its user-friendliness.

Traceable Quality System – the system family from WIPOTEC-OCS for global Track & Trace
If Track & Trace is the individual identifying feature of the pharmaceutical sector and the key to guaranteeing drug authenticity, then the Traceable Quality System (TQS) from WIPOTEC-OCS used by Acino in Aesch is the answer. Three solutions from the TQS portfolio of WIPOTEC-OCS are used simultaneously in Aesch: the TQS-SP for single pack serialisation, TQS-CP for case aggregation and TQS-HC-A for tamper evidence, serialisation and weighing. TQS represents a comprehensive solution that combines all the requirements for future, global Track & Trace in one system family. It offers maximum flexibility with the easiest implementation and commissioning. Serialisation, sealing with tamper-evident labels, end-to-end aggregation and reliable integration into packaging lines.

TQS offers unlimited drug safety thanks to serialisation and aggregation
Having installed the WIPOTEC-OCS solutions, Acino can offer its customers both serialisation and also aggregation at several different levels of supply chain logistics. This simplifies the logistics processes because importers can capture the content of deliveries much faster. Along the supply chains of serialised drugs, aggregation makes it easier for wholesalers, repackagers, or pharmacy chains to find out the contents of a box or pallet from the barcode. Aggregation also simplifies goods receipt, repackaging, and shipping processes, not to mention considerably simplifying reporting and verification of products along the supply chain. Using aggregation, there is no need to physically open and check what is inside the prepackaged shipping units. All the necessary data can be obtained in seconds by scanning the barcode, resulting in significant savings of time and resources. Bartlomiej Sedek is convinced that, “If aggregation becomes mandatory in countries in the future, we would not need to change any of our existing lines because of it.”

Semi-automatic aggregation is among the standard solutions which Acino offers its customers. Two more lines will be added in Aesch. in the near future one of them will provide fully automated aggregation which will be implemented by pester pac automation GmbH with WIPOTEC-OCS. “Unlike others, WIPOTEC-OCS has come up with lots of new ideas in machine construction and on top of that also has the better team,” Sedek says, summing up the reasons for his decision.

Online grading for global coding
The TQS serialisation systems installed in Aesch are equipped with a function to check the print quality of the printed code inline. This check (grading) takes place as the package passes through and is based on ISO/IEC 15415 (for 2D Codes) and 15416 (for 1D Codes). This evaluation is a good indicator for the print quality and is used as a trend indicator. The following applies to all interlinking processes: production lines at Acino are not allowed to stand still and three-shift 24/5 operation is the norm. It is remarkably easy to update the TQS systems which is why all the systems are always brought up to date together. Handling is therefore the same for all employees and the training for it is exceptionally easy.

Open interfaces
It was important to Acino that the Track & Trace data generated could be reliably incorporated into the current IT structure in Aesch. This means that the interfaces to higher-level systems are of particular interest. Here, TQS relies on the use of open XML standard interfaces to avoid a proprietary stand-alone solution. The TQS Line Manager ensures the least possible IT effort. Production data can be fed straight into the machine. Line Manager software runs on one of the line’s TQS modules and, as implemented at Acino, it can be connected to a large number of level 3 suppliers. Acino uses Werum PasX T&T as a level 3 system; the higher-level management system is covered by a level 4 SAP solution.

ConfigureFast for the easiest handling
The overall aim in Aesch was to give the operating staff on the line more responsibility, to establish a maximum operating level. ConfigureFast, the operating concept of the TQS machines, meets these requirements very well: it is used to control the transport system, coding unit, camera, checkweigher and labeler from a single software package.For the operator, this means convenient set-up and short changeover times when changing products, while eliminating the usual tedious change in various user interfaces completely. This consistency covers all levels of aggregation. ConfigureFast will enable the line staff to convert the production lines much more easily and quickly – saving Acino a lot of time. Acino’s target is 800 layouts, combined with the claim of implementing the „best packaging standards in the northwest of Switzerland“. And this is the sign of special quality, easy to read and easy to see: Swiss made.