Talking label best practices for regulated companies

Mari Waldron Life sciences, Pharmaceutical

On September 25, 2019, NiceLabel hosted an event at Medicon Valley Alliance in Copenhagen, Denmark. The day’s theme was best practice in label management: from solution selection and implementation, to integration and process improvement. The presenters shared their knowledge and experience in how to best handle labeling in a regulated environment.

Chr. Hansen shares their label transformation journey

The first presenter of the day was Johnny Krogh Sørensen, IT System Manager, Global IT at Chr. Hansen. Chr. Hansen has selected NiceLabel as their global labeling system provider and are in the process of implementing LMS Enterprise in all of their factories. Johnny began by talking about the process that led them to NiceLabel. One of the main keys to Chr. Hansen’s selection process was stakeholder management. There are many different perspectives within an organization, and the labeling process has many stakeholders. “It’s not complex to do labeling,” stated Johnny. “But it does involve a lot of tasks and it touches a number of functions and roles. It’s important to identify all of these touch points and make sure you have those documented in order for the implementation to be a success.” Chr. Hansen developed use cases for each area of the business involved with labeling. The use cases served as a type of contract, where all parties agreed on how the system should function. According to Johnny, this was an important tool for managing expectations. “After the implementation, if someone comes and says they didn’t get what they wanted, you can just show them the use case.”

Finding a long-term partner in NiceLabel

So what made Chr. Hansen choose NiceLabel? Johnny explained that Chr. Hansen was looking for what he termed a “full Monty” supplier. “When we look for a new supplier, we’re looking for a partner, not just a vendor,” he stated. “Because when we implement such a business-critical system, it has to be in place for decades. So it’s important that the relationship is good and that we choose a company that is a good organizational fit with Chr. Hansen.”

NiceLabel offers 24/7 system availability

The audience was quite interested in how Chr. Hansen had approached integration with SAP, and asked why they had chosen to print labels in NiceLabel as opposed to using SAP for that purpose. Johnny explained that Chr. Hansen needs to print 24/7. SAP needs to be maintained, which they do on the weekends. So there are two days each week where SAP is unavailable, but where Chr. Hansen still needs to print labels. By housing printing in NiceLabel, they can print 24/7 with no downtime.

How regulated companies should approach Industry 4.0

Next on the agenda was Arne Svendsen, Founder of Asticon ApS. He specializes in developing automated IT solutions for the pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries. Prior to establishing his own IT consultancy, Arne worked for Arla Foods, where he oversaw the implementation of NiceLabel and integration of labeling with that company’s MES. Arne spoke about the promise of Industry 4.0 and how regulated companies should approach digital transformation projects. Arne recommended starting small. Avoid trying to do everything at once; such as collecting all of the data on every single process, something Arne terms “the classic mistake”. Start with a single process, optimize it and deliver fast results. He also spoke about the importance of putting people before technology. Many companies embark on transformation projects with a system-oriented approach. But this overlooks a company’s most valuable asset: its people. Instead, Arne recommended the following approach:

  1. Define the vision – your guiding star.
  2. Look at the people involved and identify the stakeholders (Who)
  3. Understand your processes (What)
  4. Choose the right technology (How)
  5. Make it an iterative process

“It happens every time in my experience,” Arne stated. “You start a project and you end up missing a stakeholder. It sounds basic, but it’s important to remember.” He also spoke about the importance of integration, extending it beyond business systems, like ERP or MES, to hardware as well. “It’s important that the technology you choose can integrate with existing printers. Some might say, ‘Why don’t you just replace the printer?’ The answer is that it’s because the printer was expensive. So you don’t just replace it. You continue with older models, so you need software that can integrate with it.”

Benefits of integrating labeling with business systems

The day ended with a panel discussion including the two presenters and NiceLabel’s Director of Product Management, Miso Duplancic. The Q&A discussion covered a wide range of topics within best practice label management, including the benefits of integrating labeling with business systems and how to tackle serialization. For Johnny, the benefits of integrating labeling with SAP are abundantly clear. “One source of truth,” he replied. “In the old days, our data was floating around everywhere. So, if there was a content error in the data, it was impossible to find the source to correct it. Now, all data is fully under the control of our Master Data team.” Miso highlighted that agility was another advantage. “What we’ve seen is that many legacy systems are very rigid. They may succeed in integration, but they fail with label management, e.g. addressing new label requirements, managing label changes, etc. What we’re trying to do with modern label management is bring together the benefits of an integrated system, with flexible label design and digitize quality assurance regarding label template management.”

How should companies manage serialization? 

One of the panel’s big discussion topics was serialization, and the question of where it should be handled. Can it be done in NiceLabel? Miso commented that there were basically two hurdles: driving the equipment and serial number management, i.e. making sure you report the correct numbers to the correct agencies or partners. Most NiceLabel customers use systems like SAP and TraceLink, and NiceLabel integrates with those systems. Yet a challenge arises as serialization expands to include other products and greater detail. “A lot of customers have done the primary pack and integrated this with a Level 3 software directly with their serialization system,” observes Miso. “So they’re not using a labeling system. But when serialization needs to happen for a broader range of products, then you start to talk about labels and variability of label templates, e.g. different languages and customer requirements, and this is where you need a label management system to work together with the serialization system.”

Read the case study to learn more about Chr. Hansen’s approach to integrating labeling with SAP.

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