In a pilot program, Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain and AmerisourceBergen demonstrated how data can be transferred between two partners.
In 2016, the pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain (JJSC) and the distributor AmerisourceBergen launched a four-week pilot program to test GS1’s EPCIS standards and to see how effectively data could be transferred between the two partners. JJSC has been working on serialization for some time, and began shipping serialized product back in 2012, so both companies were fully connected, in terms of their IT, and they could try this approach with serialized product. The test simulated the real-world supply chain.
A DataMatrix barcode was applied containing a serialized global trade item number (GTIN), batch and lot number, and expiration data for each sellable unit (whether bottle, vial, or blister), and the units were packed into cases and loaded onto pallets, while downstream vision systems and scanners read the barcode to capture all the information. EPCIS recorded events associated with the GTIN, so that AmerisourceBergen could confirm receipt of each item sent by JJSC, automatically.
Results showed not only the viability of this approach, but its potential power. “It’s like electronic data interchange (EDI) on steroids,” says Mike Rose, vice-president, supply chain visibility at JJSC. “Over time, supply chain partners will be able to exchange a lot of critical data for additional value,” he says. The pilot ensured that all processes, from plant to warehouse and distribution channel to docks, were tracked. “It forced us to test all processes along with way. We got confirmation from our partner that everything fed back to them, from plant to distribution center, and that they were receiving relevant process data.” Rose expects to see return on investment in terms of improved inventory management and transparency in the future. “But for now, our focus remains on the patient first,” he says.