Solving Pharma Distributer’s Issues Using Smart Packaging
Smart Packaging- What Is It?
Smart Packaging is a new type of packaging with the bold or not-so-bold claim of being the solution to the industries problems. In this blog we will be learning what smart packaging is, its aims, how it works, application, benefits, drawbacks and the latest developments in the industry.
Smart Packaging is the emerging technology of embedding smart and connected electronics into packaging in order to improve efficiency and customer experience. It aims to extend the shelf life, monitor freshness, display information on quality, and improve product and customer safety.
The aim of smart packaging is to extend shelf life, monitor stock, quality control and improve the consumer experience. It does this through technology such as tags, QR codes, or sensors that can generate data. Through RFID (radio frequency identification technology) data is transmitted to the organisation’s systems, from there the organisation can spot areas in need of improvement, issues, or just monitoring the progress of the supply chain.
Many pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines require specific conditions like a specific temperature which must be maintained. If this temperature is not kept at its required level for a certain amount of time the drug will become ineffective and in some cases, even dangerous for the patient’s health if consumed. Intelligent packaging has made it possible to create labels that can inform the pharmacist or patient of the temperature during the shipping process so that they can then determine whether the drug or vaccine is safe to take/ administer or not.
Intelligent packaging can also monitor the storage environment. Allowing you to know if the drug has been contaminated through chemicals or bacteria. In the future smart packaging will go to the extent of controlling its environment to ensure that the drugs do not get spoiled.
Incorporating NFC (Near Field Communication) tags into packaging adds a layer of protection as each tag has a unique identity built in which can be tracked throughout the supply chain up to the point that it reaches the patient. Anybody can verify if the product is official or a counterfeit easily through tapping the NFC tag in the table with their phone.
Protects products’ contents and enhance shelf life- smart packaging can adjust itself taking into account external factors. This will help to reduce the amount of damaged or unusable goods which can help to save costs and minimise waste.
Quality Control- smart packaging can go to the extent of monitoring the condition of a product and can notify manufacturers if the product becomes compromised, this will allow manufacturers to deal with the issues as they rise but also to help analyse the supply chain to see if there is a trend in where problems occur.
Prevents Theft and Counterfeit Goods- due to the slow relay of information across the chain and the room for human error when reporting back on the status of the goods. This can be solved through smart packaging, reducing theft which will also have the benefit of preventing the production of counterfeited goods.
Prevent Stock Depletion- this solution allows manufacturers to monitor the levels of stock available meaning they can replenish them before it runs out.
In a world of increasing data theft, we must be careful (as smart packaging picks up a lot of data) because with pharmaceuticals we are working with VERY sensitive data.
A drawback that would instantly spring to the mind of a business owner is the addition cost of adding this technology. In the future smart packaging will benefit from the effects of economies of scales once mass production begins and smart packaging becomes an industry standard.
In context of our aims of a green planet, not all parts in smart packaging are made from sustainable materials, for example the batteries, sensors, or circuits which can be challenging to recycle. This is important to consider as when implementing changes into a business, the long-term viability of a new component must be evaluated. A solution to this could be the development of using ‘clean’ energy to power the electronics in smart packaging and using biodegradable materials.
New legislation is will be implemented due to the complex nature of the numerous components of smart packaging. Keeping up with all of the existing and growing number of regulations would be both time and cost consuming for manufacturers. However, as the popularity of smart packaging increases, legislation is growing more flexible so that it can be easily updated to keep up with this rapidly moving sector.
The biggest threat from smart packaging is data protection, smart packaging gathers data and it is imperative that this data is secured as non-public data such as identity, location, behaviour and preferences may be collected. Cryptography systems is a potential solution to this issue. Cryptography can help by storing the collected information in a way that it can only be accessed by the intended recipients.
Smart packaging is a space to watch for all of those involved directly or indirectly by the packaging supply chain. The packaging industry is a market that will continue to grow but with new threats emerging, they must find a way to innovate against the industries problems. Is smart packaging that solution? This will be discussed in much more detail at our Pharma & Device Packaging and Labelling Forum