So let me set expectations- Initially, your business process efficiencies will be impacted negatively by serialization.
Let's all understand that up front so that we can instead focus on the best ways to operate in a serialized world. Serialization changes the way you do business- period. It is almost ridiculous to assume that such a foundational change to manufacturing and distribution processes can be accomplished without taking some hits.
The issue in the industry, and the cause for the hyper-sensitivity, is that the focus is always, and only, on this negative. The loudest people in the room are often the packaging and distribution supervisors whose heads are on the line when throughput declines.
The unfortunate part is serialization its not being sold correctly to the business stakeholders. I don't envy the folks in industry responsible for doing this and it's not entirely their fault. For example we still don't have enough historical data from the industry to say "throughput is going to decline BUT here's exactly where, and how much, we'll make up in other areas." This is changing though as companies are starting to require this level of analysis as part of their serialization initiatives.
Again my belief is the magnitude of change that serialization will bring must be made clear from Day 1. The cost vs benefit question relative to process efficiency is a balancing act that should be documented as part of any enterprise serialization strategy. The question at hand is: How many events throughout the packaging and distribution processes should be captured? The less events captured, the lower the impact to process efficiency however the more events captured, the greater process impact, but more ability to use data to facilitate process improvement. The answer is neither extreme.
Some interesting ways how serialization data can be used (note these have nothing to do with regulations or product security) and can be used when 'selling' serialization.
- Process Monitoring- An example, serialization data can highlight why on Tuesday afternoons two of your distribution sites seem to have higher throughput than other days. Serialization can provide that type of data
- Supplier Contract Control- Shhh.. don't let your CMOs and 3PLs know but essentially when asking them to capture serialization data for you you are really getting a detailed view into their operations. How many items are damaged? How long does it take to package a batch? How often are orders re-worked? All data that can be used going forward to enforce contract SLAs
- Authentication- The concept of authentication is starting to gain traction. The rise of mobile technology allows for the tracking of product virtually anywhere. Authentication is often associated to consumers, however, it should be thought of in terms of internal resources as well. Authentication represents the best way to receive immediate value from serialization from the moment the first serialized item rolls off the line. More on this in an upcoming post.