German drugmaker Merck KGaA and Gerresheimer, which provides healthcare packaging and drug delivery systems for pharma, biotech and cosmetics, have jointly developed a digital twin solution to increase traceability and trust in crucial steps along the pharmaceutical supply chain.

The proof of concept (PoC) aims to transform the pharma supply chain by creating digital twins for primary packaging. Through a single interconnected network, participants will benefit from full traceability and digital trust, resulting in cost savings, improved quality and even new business models, thanks to process automation, they claim.

With the jointly developed solution, Gerresheimer’s physical primary packaging is provided with a trusted ‘key’, enabling access to its digital twin. Primary packaging, such as syringes or vials, travel through the whole supply chain, from production to the point of care, connecting and collecting information that will be linked to their unique ID.

They become the key to unlocking data coming from numerous digital ecosystems, enabling more efficient collaboration among various organizations in the supply network.

The new solution implemented on Gerresheimer products uses a blockchain-based platform and multi-patented authentication technologies developed by Merck to anchor physical objects securely in the digital world.

In combination with Industry 4.0 standards, this makes it highly trustworthy and reliable. As a science and technology company that operates across different business sectors, Merck also develops forward-looking digital solutions for customers that can be applied in a wide variety of industries.

The joint PoC comprises physical syringes with a secure unique ID, a smartphone application and access to the digital platform of Merck in order to unlock the digital twin features. The smartphone app is accessible to authorized stakeholders such as brand owners (marketing authorization holders) and quality assurance officers of the manufacturer.

After authenticating the syringe and reading the unique ID, the authorized user can access features such as quality data on demand, root-cause analysis data, and customer complaint handling.

“We are convinced that our primary packaging will become the key to enable supply networks across organizations and lead to faster process operations and data-informed decision making,” said Daniel Diezi, VP, digitalization & new business models at Gerresheimer.

“At Merck, we develop innovative digital solutions to help companies exploit the exciting advantages of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and create digital twins they can really trust. We are proud to be a digital sparring partner to help Gerresheimer realize this by putting our patented digital technologies at their service,” said Thomas Endress, executive director of EMD Digital at Merck.

In this particular case, as in pharmaceutical supply chains where many specialists contribute to overall success, the partners intend to onboard further parties, such as contract manufacturing organizations, logistics providers and regulatory bodies, to build additional seamless multiparty solutions and exploit the full potential of traceability from production to the point of care.

This article was created in collaboration with AIPIA (the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association). Packaging Europe and AIPIA are joining forces to bring news and commentary about the active and intelligent packaging landscape to a larger audience. To learn more about this partnership, click here.