Case History: Shipping Container Barcoding

 In 201

The client, an East Coast medical device company, is a supplier of test kits used to detect specific medical conditions.

They were concerned about GS1 Healthcare compliance in their shipping container barcoding number assignments to products, including sale units and shipping containers. The numbering system they have in place has come from all directions. Their European distributors had assigned some of their numbers, and they weren’t sure whether they had ever been “registered”. Other numbers were from a legacy database they’ve used for years.

Shipping Container Barcoding has no intrinsic logic– just differentiate packaging levels

Shipping container barcoding was also confusing to the client because the same product is packaged in several different ways, depending upon where it was being shipped. Sometimes the sale unit was packaged in a 12 pack inner carton, then in a 4 pack master carton. At other times, the several different sale units would be bundled together in a sample kit which became a new sale unit, which was then packaged in an 8 pack inner carton and then in a 6 pack master carton. Still other customers required different configurations of packaging, some recurring, some not. How should the shipping container barcoding for these various packaging schemes be numbered and how are all the trading partners made aware of the total system? Also, the client didn’t have any sort of procedure in place to notify trading partners of packaging identification.

The client was also confused about which symbology to use at the item level and at the shipping level. They had been using EAN13 on most of their item level packages, and the client wasn’t sure that was correct. But some customers had insisted on ITF14’s for certain sale item-level packages.

Finally, the contact person at the client location was newly appointed to head the labeling department, where some personnel had worked for a number of years, and were familiar with “the way things have been done”. Whether or not things had been done correctly was unclear.

Don’t attempt to make shipping container barcoding intelligent

The goal for this consultation was to get the client ready for implementing EDI in their trading partner relationships, and to be GS1 Healthcare compliant by the 2013 sunrise dates.

Overall, this was all about GS1 Guidelines and Standards. The challenge for this and many similar companies is to inform a functioning group of people to acquire a common understanding of what is required to make their company compliant. While each member of the team had more than sufficient intelligence to read and understand the GS1 documentation, they didn’t have the time to do this at work, and the team would still need to meet and coalesce their knowledge, ask questions about specific issues concerning them, and establish a foundation of common knowledge and practice for moving forward.

The seminar we presented was a broad overview of the GS1 Healthcare Standards, with a specific examination of how they could adapt (or in some cases, replace) their legacy numbering system into a compliant shipping container barcoding system.

Because the client could only devote several hours of one day to this, we agreed to an open-ended follow-up period during which they would have unlimited access to us for clarifications and questions.

We have made steady progress with several months of ongoing dialog with this client. They are working closely with their trading partners to resolve their legacy number assignment issues. This work is raising some new challenges to make their barcodes do more, such as encoding lot numbers and expiration dates for specific products.

Shipping container barcoding can be confusing–it is simpler than it seems

Each step gets them closer to being ready to implement EDI. The client reports that their trading partners are excited about the progress they have made in shipping container barcoding and how pleased they are at the leadership they are showing as a vendor.

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