Merck says 'digital twin' packaging shows its value

German drugmaker Merck KGaA says it has completed a proof-of-concept study which shows that adding a unique identifier to pharmaceutical primary packaging can help improve process automation and reduce costs in the supply chain.

The pilot – partnered with packaging specialist Gerresheimer – involved placing a unique code on primary packaging such as a syringe that was used to create a 'digital twin' of the physical item on the cloud.

Unique codes are often placed on secondary packaging for pharmaceutical products and in many territories are required by law for traceability and supply chain security purposes, but to date less emphasis has been placed on primary packaging.

"We are convinced that our primary packaging will become the key to enable supply networks across organisations and lead to faster process operations and data-informed decision making," said Daniel Diezi, head of digitalisation and new business models at Gerresheimer.

The two companies worked together on the platform, which slows syringes or vials to be tracked through the supply chain from production to point of care, each marked using a blockchain-protected digital ID and Merck authentication features for transparency and to guard against tampering.

The system uses a smartphone app to interact with items and their digital twins as they move through the supply chain. After authenticating the syringe and reading the unique ID, authorised users can access features such as quality and root-cause analysis data, and customer complaint handling features.

For example, they can access certificates of analysis, inspection data, and product-specific characteristics like technical specifications.

"Gerresheimer and Merck intend to onboard further parties to build additional seamless multiparty solutions and exploit the full potential of traceability from production to the point of care," said the partners in a statement.

"As soon as additional parties, such as contract manufacturing organisations, logistics providers and regulatory bodies, adopt the solution, the potential for automated business logic grows for use cases such as automated machine-to-machine generation of certificates and its exchange across different parties."

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