Thursday, September 23, 2010

Total Material Control: DAI Software extends material tracking effectiveness

Pharmaceutical operations are subject to same commercial pressures as R&D, production and distribution operations in other industries, but with a critical difference. The strong regulatory framework under which the Pharmaceutical and the related Nutrition industry operates means that issues of material tracking and batch traceability, which for some are the icing on the cake, are absolutely at the heart of the business. Requirements such as these put additional demands on the materials handling and warehousing systems that are used.

Many material tracking functions are managed through modules within high lever corporate systems (eg ERP), which cannot fully support the demanding operations in warehouses, R&D and production. This is especially true in time critical or high throughput environments with both manual and automated materials handling technology or in situations where material tracking must cross organisational boundaries. Under these circumstances, the choice is either to:

  • implement a separate, stand alone Material Tracking System, with all the required functionality - usually a major, time consuming and expensive task, or
  • put in a "Front End" application to extend the capabilities of the existing systems and overcome their limitations - often a much simpler and lower cost option.
Digital Applications International (DAI) has developed "Total Material Control" (TMC), a system that provides these "Front-End" capabilities. TMC boosts material tracking performance in by providing accurate, real-time, supervisory control of all movement activities. John Millard, TMC Product Manager at DAI stated, "Integrating TMC with an existing high level system will deliver financial benefits in R&D, production and warehouse and distribution operations. Typical savings following a TMC installation include reduced labour costs due to increases in staff effectiveness and efficiency, reduced rework by achieving near 100% picking and stock level accuracy and reduced inventory and write off costs through better stock visibility and accuracy."

TMC works in fully automated, fully manual and mixed movement environments. It makes use of barcoding and radio data terminal technology to control material movements not only between operations at a given location but also between locations. TMC controls all physical material movements. TMC issues instructions to operatives, who confirm completion of their operations using fixed, portable or vehicle mounted terminals. TMC also sends instructions to materials handling equipment such as cranes, conveyors, sortation equipment and Automatic Guided Vehicles via equipment controllers, and receives status information in return.

Describing TMC's movement control functionality, DAI's Millard continued "Once the higher level system has issued a Transport Order, TMC takes responsibility for executing it at the correct time, making the most efficient use of the available resources. TMC uses its knowledge of the routes between the required start and end point, together with their current status to subdivide the order into a set of low level movement instructions that are given to the appropriate device for execution. TMC keeps track of the position and status of every unit of material - pallet, container or even item - while in transit and when at its final destination."

With the Pharmaceutical market in mind, where cGMP compliance is mandatory, the TMC family of products has been developed within DAI's proven quality assurance framework specifically aimed at systems requiring pharmaceutical validation. This provides the documented evidence that the underlying design has the integrity needed to ensure that the system will repeatedly and reliably do what it purports to do. DAI's TMC is now in operational use in pharmaceutical production units and distribution warehouses in the UK, mainland Europe and the USA.

Source: Digital Applications International

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