Barcode label abuse and vandalism eliminated

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A software-driven, high bay storage and retrieval system has been installed at AstraZeneca UK’s Investigational Products Facility (IPF) in Macclesfield by Savoye Logistics. The system has been designed to deliver compact, cost-effective storage on a site where space is at a premium.

The 100-acre Macclesfield site is one of eight that pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca has in the UK, and which houses manufacturing and supply, product development and quality assurance. The IPF division supplies investigational products for use in clinical trials in hospitals and clinics worldwide, apart from the US.

The warehouse can store up to 1,050 pallets, nine high on double racking, with automatic temperature control and bespoke Savoye-developed software. On receipt materials are checked, separated into individual storage units, labelled and re-palletised. AstraZeneca’s software validates the stock to purchase orders and issues barcodes with material, batch and stock container data, which are placed onto each storage unit.

Materials are sent to the Savoye automatic warehouse through a double door airlock security system, or to one of six cold stores for temperature-sensitive materials, or for storage in a Kardex Industriever or one of three Kardex Shuttle Units.

With limited space AstraZeneca “appreciated the advantages” of a high bay stacker crane solution, requiring half the footprint of a fork truck operated warehouse. Also, the costs were similar to a conventional narrow aisle installation as the required space would still be less, and an automated warehouse gives a greater degree of security.n DHL Express has solved the problem of its automated scanners being unable to read barcode labels that have been tampered with. The parcels business uses three durable plastic crates for mass post transport in a closed logistics operation. Each crate carries three durable barcode labels which are used for the permanent identification and tracking of the crate within DHL’s automated system.

Numerous tests were performed in the live application to ensure that the right label construction was selected and that the codes could be read by the automated scanners. However, a problem occurred because users of the crates frequently attached address labels on top of the durable crate ID label, or wrote information on the label.

This interfered with the readability of the crates’ master barcode labels and stopped the automated system from operating. Cleaning these labels using scalpels, scrapers or chemicals proved dangerous and time consuming to staff, and often led to the label being damaged.

DHL turned to RFID and barcoding specialist inotec, which developed a new label called PolyDiamond and which includes a non-stick siliconised top-coat. This ensures that anything applied to the label, whether other temporary labels or graffiti, can be easily and quickly removed with no damage to the original label. The coating also protects against everyday grime and dirt, which can be wiped from the surface.

Further tests to check the labels durability were carried out by DHL in its fully-equipped, life-size test stations. This included a simulated 100 cycles through the system and 20 cycles in an aggressive industrial high pressure washing machine. The PolyDiamond labels were undamaged.

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