The role of Track and Trace in Pharma Supply Chains

Track and trace systems have been one of the most influential integrations into the logistics of pharma supply during this emergence of new technological solutions. We will be reviewing the ins and outs of this system and evaluating its utility and enhancement of operations.

What is Track and Trace?

Track and Trace is a software based solution that is used to track a product through its supply chain. It can be used to track vehicles, loading units, shipments or products all the way from supplier to consumer. Track and trace systems that are specialised for vehicles are called Vehicle Tracking Systems. This software solution can trace a drug’s current and past locations. This allows the product to be returned or recalled efficiently.

The system works through RFID chips. RFID technology uses electromagnetic fields to identify and track signals embedded in objects. The RFID system consists of a small radio transponder, a radio receiver and a transmitter. An RFID chip is loaded with all the relevant data such as name, condition, amount, and location.

The RFID chip will be constantly transmitting radio waves with all this information. Through given access, any person with an RFID reader will be able to view this information. All data is updated to ensure accurate readings for both supplier and customer. This data is stored automatically and mitigates risk.

Another way that a product can be tracked is through the scanning of individual barcodes. A product will be given a unique barcode by the supplier, everytime the product changes hands, the barcode is scanned and its location and courier details are updated. For example, the delivery driver will scan the barcode once it has picked up the package and details of the collection will be sent out as a notification to all parties involved.

Due to recent introductions of legislation and regulations, there is increased pressure to apply accountability to products within the pharmaceutical industry. The serialisation of packaging that track and trace systems provide will be able to assist manufacturers in meeting those mandatory requirements.


Traceability is vital to the pharmaceutical industry. There are many external factors that can impact the quality of the product and the satisfaction of the customer. Traceability will allow for increased supply chain visibility, improved quality control systems and reducing counterfeit medicines entering the market.

Efficiency in track and trace systems allow for customers to access real time data in order to schedule their pipeline around logistics. A customer can track their product through the internet. A unique gateway of access is given to the customer where they can view updates made by courier and supplier.

The courier’s location is recorded by a GPS system that operates via satellite. GPS is the most efficient tool used to track products due to its application of the atomic clock, which ensures timing stability to less than one-millionth of a second. By integrating Doppler-derived speed with this level of time signal reliability, an extraordinarily accurate distance measurement is achieved.

By accessing real time updates, your customers can accurately depict the quality of service provided. The records can be accessed and reviewed. If the delivery is up to standard and a customer is satisfied with results, they’ll feel comfortable in pursuing repeat purchases. If deliveries are consistently not up to standard, ie. late or containing poor quality items, the customer can trace the package up the supply chain and return it.


There are many benefits of track and trace systems to both the supplier and customer.

Business protection

Detecting the issue on the manufacturer's end is an important factor. In the event of a problem, the first steps are crucial. And the action taken in the first few hours of the problem depends on the monitoring and field support systems. The ideal is a ‘cradle to grave’ automated system which spans the whole supply chain and contains all the information relating to the product, breaking it down into its component parts and sources. Traceability functionality will make it easy to drill down instantly and find out where individual elements came from, where they ended up, and who granted approval or acceptance at each stage. If this system was not in place, all information would have to be gathered by searching through physical documents which would be much more time consuming and inefficient.


Adoption of traceability alongside technology will help your business run leaner and smarter. The direct costs involved in reimbursing customers, fixing problems and producing replacement products eats into your profit margins. By having real-time traceability processes in place, you can make sure you mitigate the costs involved with traceability and tackle any problems early on. In perhaps the most challenging economic time for decades, taking control of recalls can be a game changer for manufacturers. Safety certificates can be provided automatically, as well as complete audit trails being transferred onto a system and integrated into the wider manufacturing project, information will be updated in real-time and accessible to all parties involved, resulting in ultimate supply chain traceability without disrupting manufacturing.

Customer Confidence

Dealing with traceability efficiently is a confidence booster that has a positive and profitable impact on customer relationships. For many tier one customers, it also shows a level of commitment and professionalism that sets you apart from other manufacturers. Providing accountability through consistent updates helps boost a customer’s confidence in your capabilities. Having this data readily available gives you an edge in building customer relations and increasing retention.


As useful as a tracking system is, no traceability system is without its drawbacks.


Due to the amount of sensitive information that is processed and stored to track a product, the loss in a potential data breach is much greater. If a third party is able to hack or gain unauthorised access to this data, it would lead to unwanted attention from third parties who have an interest in reselling the product for their own personal gain. Prevention of data breaches can be utilised through encryption. By hiring software protection experts, weaknesses in the firewall can be plugged making it harder for third parties to gain access to sensitive information.

Future Proofing

Fundamental changes to the technical configuration of manufacturing lines and packaging processes require a potential investment of around $100,000 or more. However, the lack of global standardisation of T&T requirements means that systems cannot be designed in a future-proof way. As a result, future requirements can very quickly outgrow the capabilities of installed hardware and drive further investments to keep systems current. Therefore, constant communication between regulatory agencies, the pharmaceutical industry, and system suppliers is essential to ensure readiness for the future, patient safety, and keep costs to healthcare systems low.

Track and Trace system operations 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 industry's problems.

Track and Trace will transform logistics in pharma supply, will you join the revolution? This will be discussed in much more detail at our Pharma Supply Chain & Logistics Innovation Programme

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