Fighting the Battle against Drug Counterfeiting; How Document Automation Can Assist

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Today’s supply chain companies demand a near perfect order record to reduce the cost of labor, transportation and errors within their distribution centers. We interviewed Tom Napier from PSI Engineering, which provides tailored products to the pharma industry.Their systems not only reduce costs, but also helpfight counterfeiting and secure the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Interview conducted by Cristina Falcão

C Falcão:
According to John Panunto, president of PSI Engineering, “The biggest hurdle and the last thing that people think about is the automation of the paper.”Can you explain how PSI Engineering handles this issue for the pharma industry?

T Napier: Handling paper documents is generally a manual process in the supply chain. Most companies concentrate on the order entry, order release, order picking and shipping in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the packing slip, pharma-info, pre-printed materials (marketing material & product package inserts) are often left to the packing station operator to include. Introducing a human to a task has the potential to introduce errors and slow down order processing throughput.

C Falcão: You said that “Operators needing to scan bar codes slow down a production line” – can you tell Pharma IQ why and what solution does PSI Engineering have to speed up the production line?

T Napier:  Every task an operator is required to do (each transaction), the more time it takes to process an order. If the system doesn’t “walk” an operator through each transaction required, then often an operator will miss steps, not unlike a cook may miss a key ingredient for a meal. Thus, many manual packing station systems, in pharma, need to step the through the process. Each step takes time and delays an order from moving to the shipping area.

C Falcão: How does your automatic prescription packaging system (APPS) work?

T Napier: The APPS is an automated system that marries the prescription product with the required documents, packages these items into a “mailer” or shipping container, applies the shipping label and sends the completed order to the shipping sorter. Each prescription was previously filled via picking or automatic filling, labeled with a unique bar code and moved to the APPS for processing. The APPS takes over as described. All no-read bar code scans or mismatched products, documents, labels, items, etc are rejected before the container sealing process. If the order items are all correct and the shipping label is incorrect and/or bar code cannot be read, the packaged order is also rejected. Everything is database controlled and comparison checks are made throughout the system so the APPS is 100% error free.

C Falcão: What is the creation and marrying of documents to orders?

T Napier: Documents are created from the Host system (order system). All the required “other” information and/or documents will be appended to the packing slip. The order (prescription) is what the patient (physician prescribed) requires and is processed earlier in the picking area. The marrying process takes place during the document printing and feeding into a shipping container or the document is automatically applied to the outside of that order.

C Falcão:There's a saying, "add a person and introduce the possibility of errors." How does PSI Engineering prevent wrong documents from being married with an incorrect order?

T Napier:“A person can make an error but it takes a computer to really get things wrong,” is an old saying from when computers were first introduced into business. Since then, databases have become very powerful and don’t make mistakes. However, people still make mistakes and that will never stop. Mistakes in pharma order processing is not tolerable and thus it is best to use the power of automation and database computer’s database to guaranty 100% order accuracy.

C Falcão: The OP (Order Package) is a sub-system of the automated pharmacy - can you give us an overview?

T Napier: The OP (Order Package) is a sub-system of the automated pharmacy.  The purpose of the OP is to deploy a bag with a specific patient label and insert the associated literature pack and bottle(s) into the bag.  The bag may be sealed or unsealed.  The order goes to the outgoing conveyor which has a mechanism to selectively divert an order off the conveyor.  It also has the capability of rejecting a literature pack to keep synchronization.

The OP is designed to process a minimum of 1500 orders per hour with two bottles and a two page literature pack. A single operator is required to maintain a supply of bags to the machine and to remove rejected literature packs. The automated pharmacy supplies bottles to the bagger chute. With the Perfect Order concept, PSI achieves 100% shipping order accuracy. 

C Falcão:
Does PSI Engineering have a special app for large drug distributors such as Pharma wholesalers?

T Napier: PSI Engineering is the world leader in document automation within all distribution centers. We actually have one specific system that will (it may seem strange to many in the pharma industry) guaranty 100% correct documents, married to their orders. However, in the bio-pharma industry we take this concept on step further and check one last time at the point of when the order and document are being married. Thus our standard three point marriage inspection becomes a four point marriage inspection. We subscribe to the Perfect Order concept, which includes documents and not just the product. In non-pharma orders, the document (packing slip) is the contract between the consignee and the consignor. That is much the same in the pharma world but this/these document(s) are also the product (drug) instructions (dosages and interactions). It is the responsibility of the pharma industry to guaranty that documents are always correct, to reduce their liability but more importantly, to make the patient healthy.

C Falcão: How can PSI Engineering contribute to fight counterfeited drugs in the supply chain and do you have solutions for counterfeited drugs that are sold online?

T Napier: The fewer people who touch an order in an automated system will reduce the potential of counterfeiting. There are also other technologies that can be used as a check, if an order was “high jacked” and a counterfeit substitution occurs. Many pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors are implementing RFID but also use unique bar code labeling. Documents can utilize these same checking methods. RFID tags can be embedded into the document to associate it with the product, making it extra difficult for a counterfeiter to introduce a fake product. As well, a simple bar code scan of the document and product upon receipt will show a correct marriage. This last step in the receiving process is not as secure as RFID but is a way to help prevent counterfeiting.

C Falcão: Do you have any application for cold chain?

T Napier: No, not at this time. However per your last question, RFID tags included embedded into the document as well as into the product will give an extra check as to temperature controlled movement of orders from the consignor to the consignee.

Tom Napier comes from an engineering background with more than 30 years in the supply chain management industry; he has been working for PSI Engineering for over five years having brought his technology and design strengths . During this time, he has helped design, sold many systems around the world, and enhanced the document automation concepts into The Perfect Order methodology.

(Courtesy of

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