Cleaning Up Case Coding at B. Braun Medical

Engineers no longer sprayed with ink.

In 1839, B. Braun Medical began operating as a small-town pharmacy. Today, the company is part of a powerful multinational healthcare organization, ranked among the world’s largest medical products suppliers. It manufactures infusion therapy and pain management products with a special emphasis on environmentally friendly solutions. Throughout its 170-year history, the company has been recognized for quality and reliability in each of its product areas.

Four 5400 Series high-resolution, large-character ink-jet printers from Markem-Imaje allow B.Braun to print on a wider range of substrates.

This reputation has certainly carried over to the B. Braun Medical business unit in Irvine, CA, which produces one-liter, half-liter, and quarter-liter IV bags for hospital use. The unit’s main customers are medical supply distributors and warehouses that buy B. Braun products in bulk and then sell them to hospitals and other medical facilities.  Accurate coding of cases has always been important to B. Braun. But until recently, the company was experiencing problems with its ink-jet printing equipment. It was using ink-jet print technology that would spray haphazardly and create a mess—a frustrating and unacceptable situation, particularly for a company producing medical supplies and trying to maintain its reputation for quality in every facet of the business. To B. Braun, cleanliness is of the utmost importance, but this particular equipment was not only leaving ink residue within the work area, it was causing engineers to go home with “blue arms” from the messy spray from the printers. That’s when B. Braun contacted Markem-Imaje.

Markem-Imaje replaced the older technology with four 5400 Series high-resolution, large-character ink-jet printers with two printheads each. These units feature a high print resolution and Touch Dry Hot Melt inks, which dry instantly on contact—without the mess. In addition, the 5400 Series also allows B. Braun to print on a wider range of substrates.

The company chose Markem-Imaje products because of equipment reliability and print quality. In four years, they have only had to replace two or three printheads, and that was because of accidental collisions. On the line, they print bar codes with unit labeling, lot, and expiration dates. Codes are scanned for efficiency two separate times in the production process. On the rare occasion that a bar code is bad or somehow degraded, the production line stops automatically so the B. Braun team can check the printhead and make sure it is clean and running smoothly.  

Alan Krupa, engineering technician at B. Braun Medical, reports: “Besides equipment reliability, one of the biggest benefits that brought us to Markem-Imaje was its CoLOS software networking capability. We used to do the code programming manually. Now we simply scan a bar code, and the process is automated. This saves us a lot of time that would have been spent entering and double-checking information. Each unit is on a separate laptop, so a single base unit computer is not dragging the entire network down should a failure occur. All of the laptops have the same templates, so if one goes down, we move on to the next unit.  It has made the process very streamlined and easy,” states Krupa.

Markem-Imaje also helped B. Braun by adapting its equipment to fit B. Braun Medical’s special boxes, which the company designs and constructs on site in Irvine, CA. Before installing the Markem-Imaje equipment, these boxes had a long history of interfering with the printheads. To solve the problem, Markem-Imaje’s engineering team developed a spring-loaded head for the printers allowing them to adapt and adjust based on the unique shape of the boxes. This spring-loaded head has been installed on all the printers and has helped improve the uptime of the whole production line. According to Krupa, “We can now print the bar codes directly on the boxes without interference and without having to apply a label later.”

“Working with the Markem-Imaje team has always been a good experience,” states Krupa. “They are always responsive and knowledgeable—like members of our own team. The engineering support and customization they provided for the printheads was particularly innovative.”  

Having reliable systems in place for case coding allows the company to focus on producing reliable and safe medical supplies.
Markem-Imaje, a wholly owned subsidiary of the New York-based Dover Group, manufactures product identification and traceability solutions, offering a full line of ink-jet, thermal-transfer, laser, and print-and-apply label systems.

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