The products themselves may not be markedly different: the uniqueness is more likely to be in the way the product is positioned, the dosage applied and the instructions provided. Every day, efficiency and patient safety improves as a result of personalized packaging, and it plays an important role in boosting patient adherence, and safety. At the same time, this evolution presents a growing logistical challenge for manufacturers and distributors. As batch runs become smaller and the number of packaging and labeling variants soar, there’s a growing burden on manufacturers and supply chains to keep up. And those supply chains are already under huge pressure from the drastic upheaval being experienced by firms shutting down and with sourcing becoming unreliable due to COVID-19.
The Pressures on The Life Sciences Warehouse
All this is a particular pressure point for packaging and labeling management professionals, increasing the urgency for manufacturers and marketing authorization holders to bring the process under more cohesive control and to manage all of the packaging and labeling variants reliably and efficiently from end to end. Yet, managing packaging and labeling is already a substantial issue in life sciences because of the sheer volume of regulated elements that must be included with products. These elements, in turn, are subject to frequent change as substances, manufacturing processes, naming conventions, or compliance requirements evolve. This is especially true currently when, due to the pandemic, suppliers need to be switched and subsequent reformulations may require labeling adjustments.
As batches of identical products become smaller, to be replaced by more variants of products and their associated packaging, labeling and instructions-for-use contents, the workloads for teams involved in label design, approval, distribution, and ongoing change management, will inevitably increase. Independent analysis from McKinsey has highlighted the struggle life sciences companies face compared to other industries such as tech or fast-moving consumer goods, with life sciences firms having to carry four to six times the inventory days of FCMG and up to 40 times manufacturing lead times. The study found that when it comes to maintaining optimum stock levels, minimizing lead times and exposure to product obsolescence, pharmaceutical and medical device companies perform poorly and inefficiently compared to most other industry categories.
Much of this lag can be explained by the highly manual and separated way that manufacturers and supply chains manage their artwork and labeling production. How do manufacturers put in place solutions that provide greater sustainability and coordination in a future likely to feature multiplying product variants, as well as increased regulation and further supply chain risk and disruption?
Agile Packaging and Labeling Management
What we need is a clear and practical route towards a more agile future. In order to tackle these challenges, life sciences firms need to engage with modern, cloud-based labeling platforms, which can manage and track the dynamic assembly, review, and workflow of every labeling element (text, icons, artwork), from the factory floor to a product’s arrival with the customer. The key to success, reliability and efficiency across all global labeling management, as more personalized packaging and labeling is needed, is to take a unified, coordinated approach to artwork and labeling creation and across-the-lifecycle change handling.
In fact, to be of value, any platform should support programmable rules and feature an intelligent engine able to support the automated assembly of correct packaging and labeling management. Best practice suggests this should be based on a ‘bill of materials’ approach to content creation, as this would ensure the right combination of labeling modules can be brought together quickly to fit each given need, for any product, for any target customer group in any market, while still giving the brand full visibility and traceability.
Of course, it’s an open market, and you need to find the right solution for your specific business needs. No matter how you move forward, the question remains how do pharmaceutical firms, who have fragmented and highly manual ways of managing packaging and labeling, bring this together in more automated and seamless ways to meet the ever rapidly changing ways of the market?
If increased globalization and accelerating regulatory updates have not served as a sufficient catalyst for transformation in all four corners of the life sciences market, the rising personalization trend coupled with COVID-19 supply chain disruption will certainly impose rather overdue change once and for all.
Gurdip Singh is CEO of Kallik, a market-leading enterprise labeling company.