Identifying and tracking lab samples, inventory, and work in process is crucial to compliance and performance in any life sciences company. But achieving true, end-to-end traceability can be elusive, especially if you don’t have fully automated and digital tracking systems.
Suppose you’re still using manual tracking, handwritten labels, or spreadsheets to track and trace all your assets and processes. In that case, you’re probably losing time and efficiency, and you’re certainly inviting errors and potential compliance issues.
But even if you have a more automated track-and-trace system, you may not be getting the best possible results, particularly if your printed labels and tracking technologies aren’t up to the task.
In this article, we’ll look at how you can achieve an ideal level of tracking accuracy, efficiency, and compliance with a completely digital and optimized system for life sciences traceability.
It’s something Vantage ID has helped our life sciences clients do with barcoding, RFID, and mobile computing technologies from Zebra, which provide all the tools you need for end-to-end traceability. And here’s how it works.
Labeling and Tagging Samples and Other Assets
Ultimately, any reliable and automated traceability system begins with labeling or tagging your samples, inventory, and assets, so you can identify them and track them as they move through your processes. But that gets tricky in lab environments where barcode labels or RFID tags must be applied to curved surfaces, vials, and blood bags, and they have to survive cryogenics, steam autoclaves, or other harsh conditions.
Standard paper labels, adhesives, and printer ribbons don’t work in these situations. Instead, specialized synthetic labels and adhesives are required to keep labels from falling off, keep adhesives from leaching, and keep printed material from smearing or becoming unscannable and unreadable.
Fortunately, Zebra Technologies, a global leader in barcoding and data capture since 1969, has specialized labels, adhesives, and printer ribbons for each lab application.
Zebra has specific labels and tags for use on vials, microscope slides, bottles, specimen trays, biopsy cassettes, blood bags, and virtually any type of asset and surface. And it uses specialized materials such as polypropylene labels, acrylic adhesives, and resin ribbons to ensure adhesion and protect printed barcodes and information from the harshest conditions such as cryogenic freezing or steam autoclave processes. Zebra also has removable labels that are incredibly durable but can be removed when needed without leaving behind label adhesives.
Recommended Printing Solutions
To print your labels and tags, it’s typically best to use an industrial-grade printer such as Zebra’s ZT400 Series or ZT600 Series printers. These are devices designed for fast, high-quality, and high-volume printing in enterprise environments.
Each is built with an all-metal frame for rugged durability, and Zebra uses high-performance components to ensure print reliability and quality, even in the most demanding applications. Ultimately, Zebra printers can print at speeds up to 14 inches per second at up to 600 dpi resolution, delivering outstanding and precision print quality on even the tiniest barcodes.
Additionally, Zebra’s ZT400 and ZT600 Series printers are equipped with a full-color touch interface for ease of use. They offer connectivity via USB, USB host, Serial, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and other communication protocols using two additional communication slots.
With centralized cloud-based management, each printer is easily manageable through Zebra’s Link-OS printer operating system. In addition, it can be upgraded with field-installable RFID encoding or media handling capabilities such as a label cutter and rewinder.
Data Capture with Barcode Scanners, RFID, and Mobile Computing
Once you’re printing and applying the proper labels and tags to identify your samples and assets and ensure reliable traceability, the following key is to capture and track all your printed barcodes or RFID tags to automate your tracking processes and transmit the data to your business systems and apps.
This is another area where Vantage ID offers great solutions and advantages, especially with Zebra’s advanced, healthcare-grade barcode scanners and imagers and its mobile computers and tablets.
For example, Zebra’s DS4608-HC barcode scanner easily and accurately captures virtually any barcode in any condition, including small, high-density, and curved barcodes on bottles, vials, specimen trays, and more.
Suppose you’re scanning tiny, high-density barcodes on microscope slides and curved surfaces. In that case, Zebra’s DS9900-HC barcode imager is an ideal option because it’s a purpose-built laboratory imager and not just a barcode scanner. It has advanced imaging technology and algorithms to capture, parse and decode data on the smallest scales, using either its handhelds or hands-free presentation scanning mode. And there is an RFID model available that combines barcode scanning with RFID tag reading.
Zebra’s scanners and imagers provide quick and easy integration with your other devices, apps, and systems. For example, suppose you prefer to combine barcode scanning with mobile computing. In that case, Zebra also has a great portfolio of touch mobile computers and enterprise-grade tablets, including the TC52-HC healthcare-grade smartphone-style mobile computer and the ET5x enterprise tablet.
The TC52-HC is a disinfectant-ready enterprise solution for life sciences and healthcare organizations, with advanced data capture, video streaming, secure texting, mobile alarms and alerts, and octa-core computer processing power.
Zebra’s ET5x tablets are thin and lightweight 8-inch or 10-inch tablets built with enterprise-class durability and performance. Their durability includes concrete drop specs, IP65 sealing against water and dust, and resistance to extreme temperatures. They also have built-in 1D and 2D barcode scanning capabilities, plus the latest MU-MIMO Wi-Fi technology, hot-swappable batteries, and octa-core computer processing to run the most resource-intensive business apps with lightning-fast and uninterrupted performance.
Using these solutions and the right apps and software to round out a complete system for end-to-end digital traceability, you can automate all of your tracking workflows and track every sample and every asset as it moves through your processes. As a result, you can know the location and status of your samples and work-in-process in real-time. You can ensure data validity and eliminate errors and inaccuracies. You can quickly trace problems back to their root cause.
Of course, this kind of visibility and automated traceability makes it far easier to ensure compliance, which helps minimize risks and ensure safety for any life sciences company.
To learn more about how to automate traceability and put together the right tracking solution for your business, connect with our team at Vantage ID. We can answer all of your questions, set up a free consultation to learn more about your processes, goals, and needs, and recommend the best solutions to achieve your desired results. Vantage ID, See it all. Track it all.