Joining the dots: Systech adds vision to pharma supply chain

At this year’s CPhI, Systech launched Systech360, a cloud-based platform that aims to make its packaging, serialization, track-and-trace and product authentication systems work together seamlessly.

During the event, the company’s CEO Ara Ohanian (pictured) explained to why that visibility is needed in pharma as well as other industries like consumer goods.

Serialization to identify product is a great step forward for the industry and helps to meet the regulatory requirement for protecting the medicine supply chain in regions such as the US and Europe, but isn’t enough to truly protect patients from medicines that are counterfeited, diverted and/or stolen, according to Ohanian.

The price for an unsecure supply chain is hard to quantify, but thought to be hefty both in terms of patient injury and damage to the legitimate drug industry. It is estimated that more than 700,000 people around the world have lost their lives consuming counterfeit medicines for malaria and tuberculosis alone. Meanwhile, some analyses put the loss to the pharma industry  in the region of $200bn a year from this type of illicit activity.

Over the years, Systech has added to its serialization offering (UniSeries) with track-and-trace functions (UniTrace) and authentication with UniSecure to add to the security of the supply chain, and Systech360 extends that effort. It is a subscription-based service designed to take all the data generated from those constituent parts and make it accessible, integrated and interpretable.

“Systech360 takes 30 years of Systech’s experience in serialization, track-and-trace, and authentication and put them under one umbrella , so users can see exactly where the vulnerabilities in their distribution channels are,” said Ohanian.

“Even large, sophisticated pharma companies are fighting tomorrow’s threat with yesterday’s weaponry” and are also “partially blind…because they don’t have visibility in their supply chains,” he added.

Using the new system, customers can gain real time insights into production issues, for example if lines are operating at different performance levels, or  if a product that has left the factory but been diverted to the wrong channel. It can also be used to generate a forensic ‘heat map’ to help identify where threats to supply chain security are occurring.

According to Systech’s documentation for the platform, Systech360 provides “insight into action based platform and policy automation including change control, data storage, enterprise rework and logistics, data recovery, and other modular services, provide greater access to real-time information.”

It also includes a cloud-based sandbox module that users can use to road-test environments with no special hardware required.

“This system switches company from being reactive to the threats in their production supply chain and distribution and helps them be proactive, responding immediately as they occur,” according to Ohanian, who tells us that until now this kind of end-to-end visibility hasn’t existed in the marketplace.

Another potential functionality - which is of course subject to restrictions imposed on direct-to-consumer contact in some markets and privacy issues - is to allow the pharma manufacturer to use the barcode on medicine pack to open a line of communication with the product user.

By providing information to help manage their condition, running a loyalty system or some other approach, it is feasible in principle at least to move beyond the supply chain and start tracking customer behaviours.

Systech360 is already being used by existing Systech customers and is generating data for case studies, with a more general rollout planned for November, said Ohanian.

“Customers can optimize their Systech investment by focusing resources on execution instead of data collection and management,” he continued.

“This is an efficient way to add value and enables them to get the most performance from their packaging infrastructure while reducing their multi-system integration costs. Operationalizing serialization requires this insight.”

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