How Automation-Digitization-Communication Influenced and Improved Product Packaging-Labeling – Health Files by Prabir Das

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The Product-Packaging-Labeling relationship is analogous to the Automation-Digitization-Communication relationship – practically inseparable from each other.

Product-to-person connectivity is very important in the process of building trust and a brand’s success largely depends on this building of trust. The efficiency of packaging-labeling is largely responsible for establishing this connectivity with its communication functionalities. While some of the packaging and labeling features are visible and readable, some features are invisible and require different tools to make them visible or readable in order to know the desired information. The inclusion of these features in the labeling of packaging is intended to either promote the brand or protect the brand, or both. The basic packaging and its integrated design prevent spills, leaks, breakage and product deterioration. Adverse external environmental conditions and external threats such as theft, diversion, cloning are very common. In addition to internal operational controls, there are also many external logistics controls to protect the product from these threats and challenges. Likewise, labeling enables compliance with various regulatory guidelines through identification, storage, handling, distribution and disposal instructions. There are also branding elements through the text, color and graphics. A combination of packaging and labeling design and functionality supports all of these requirements to support brand promotion and protection.

Over the years, the industry has seen tough times and has responded with more solid designs and features to support and survive in the competition. Today in this global business without fence, when several technologies are available to facilitate the process of globalization, the industry has responded well to be competitive in the global market. Quantity, quality and strict adherence to regulations are the need of the hour. The evolution of industrial automation and digitization is strongly supported by the revolution in communication systems. Most of the advanced product-packaging-labeling functionality has become achievable through this automation-digitization-communication system. This is how they are analogous to each other and also inseparable from each other.

These advanced value-added features are mainly of two types.
Static / standalone / offline category – Anti-theft / tamper-proof function, anti-counterfeiting secret / manifesto function, brand promotion function, animated and digital graphic design functions, etc.

Dynamic category / connection / online– Serialization / aggregation functionality (track & trace), SMS / web based verification functionality, user interactive functionality, etc.

Most of these features are adopted through advanced technologies – automation and digitization, wireless communication and hybrid technologies.
Brand promotion features – Textual, graphic, decorative and technical design features to enhance consumer appeal. Every product needs packaging to be protected from the outside environment and needs labeling to communicate with the outside world. It also facilitates the positioning and promotion of the brand.

Packaging and labeling are complementary. Labeling has 3 basic elements: text, graphics and substrate.

The packaging (primary, secondary and tertiary) decides on the support and its specifications. Substrates provide the basis for texts and graphics. While text is intended for brand / product identity and legal compliance, graphics are intended for product positioning or brand identity. Fonts, colors, embossing, hot stamping, different types of surface finish are common. The packaging and labeling also contains many value-added features to facilitate specific functions such as ease of display, dispensing and disposal. These combined characteristics promote the brand image.

Tamper-proof functions – Design or device to prevent pilferage or theft of the product from the original packaging. Tamper evidence is already an existing system, primarily to prevent theft and pilferage. There are 3 common systems currently in use for proof of tampering

(1) Use of tamper-evident stickers, (2) Use of hot or cold glue and (3) Mechanical locking of the packaging which leaves a sign / proof when opened.

It also presents challenges such as using additional sticker or glue and associated application units on packaging lines. Industry has used it for years to prevent theft or copying of product packs.

Anti-counterfeiting features – Design or device that prevents duplication or cloning of the original product packaging. Some of the common anti-counterfeiting features on product packaging

1. Obvious Technologies (Visible Features) – These are visible but difficult to imitate – Custom holography, micro-text, color change security inks / films, security graphics, random serialization, on-product imaging or numbering.

2. Secret Technologies (Invisible Features) – These are not visible to the naked eye – Invisible printing, Light sensitive printing, Embedded images, Digital watermark, Copy or scan protection design, Laser codes.

3. Other functionalities – RFID, biological markers, micro markers, secure web link, special printing / embossing (difficult to copy) on products (solid doses).

Authentication features – A tool or system to verify the authenticity of the product and its property. This is the last action of an end-to-end solution in which the end user participates to complete the loop. Some of the common authentication features are intricate design stickers / holograms, micro printing, use of different tags / microchips, SMS based communication link, web link via Wi-Fi connectivity, biometric codes, specific light-sensitive prints / codes, mobile application-based codes, scratch & scan codes, and so on. Product level authentication functions are also available, particularly on solid dose formulations.

These features are often used as a single technology or as a combination of different technologies, involving other value-added features such as anti-counterfeiting, proof of tampering or even serialization. However, in all of these cases, customer education and awareness is essential through demonstrations or printed instructions.

Tracking and traceability functions – A tool or system to control and ensure the security of the supply chain and ensure the safety of consumers. The Track & Trace function was mainly introduced to monitor and control the movement of goods throughout the supply chain.

This GTIN-based technology uses a unique serial number. on each salable business unit / pack. GTIN and lot specific data (package level aggregation) is transmitted to the network for verification and authentication by regulators and agencies involved in the product supply chain.

Despite the initial challenges, it has gained wide acceptance and adoption by the pharmaceutical industry not only to ensure supply chain security, but also to control counterfeiting, theft and diversion. The pharmaceutical industry across the world is now aligned to make it a success with various cost effective, compact and compliant solutions.

Automation-digitization-communication has influenced and improved all stages of operations in the industry and has also adapted to our changing way of life.
• From evolution to revolution – from local to global – from large wholesale pack to small consumer pack.
• Scaling – Quantity with quality – Consistency and reproducibility.
• Manufacturing and packaging – Testing and publication – Data management and documentation.
• Promotion and protection – Cloning and counterfeiting – Theft and embezzlement.
• Storage, Handling and Transport – Logistics and Distribution – Safety, Security and Traceability.
• Digitization is an excellent support for automation and communication systems through data and information capture, data transformation, storage, processing, transfer, exchange, retrieval, integrity , transparency and compliance.
• These help optimize cycle time, space use and convenience. It improves the speed of all business processes. Quality and compliance are well assured with transparency and integrity. It also strengthens the communication system.

There are many basic tools to support this Automation-Digitization-Communication relationship. During the period, these tools were refined for their practical applicability. Such tools help to build different tailor-made programs, which directly or indirectly facilitate operations, conversions, checks and communications.

This is how the Product-Packaging-Labeling relationship is strengthened with the help of cutting-edge tools and technologies. Often, several tools and technologies are combined to create a custom hybrid model, more powerful than a single technology.

Packaging professionals all over the world are always trying to find a customized solution to support brand protection and promotion through their knowledge of material science, conversion technologies, application feasibility and flexibility. Basic packaging materials vary from simple paper to complex composites, metals, glass, plastics and many other options. As a result, their conversion technologies also vary to finalize design and process options. In doing so, it is always ensured that the basic safety and security of the product package is maintained.

There are also logistical challenges that cover multiple options such as roads, railways, airways, cable cars, pipelines and waterways. Each of them has their own dangers and challenges. Likewise, there are many external mandates such as compliance with regulatory guidelines, benchmarking with competitors, technology obsolescence, changing consumer behavior, etc. Therefore, a good balance is required when designing and developing a product pack that can endure and survive longer in competition. .

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and ETHealthworld.com do not necessarily endorse them. ETHealthworld.com will not be liable for damages caused to any person / organization directly or indirectly.


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