Magazine Article | May 1, 2004

Pharmacy Chain Saves Big With Label Printers

Source: Business Solutions Magazine
Business Solutions, May 2004

A large pharmacy chain was wasting time and money with an inefficient drug-labeling system. The pharmacy was using computer-generated piggyback labels (three-layer laminated labels that consist of a face material on top of two liners) that were printed on a dot matrix printer and applied to blister cards (unit dose cards from which drugs are dispensed on a daily basis). Part of the piggyback label was peeled from the card and applied to a tally sheet to track refill needs.

The system had a variety of pitfalls. First, the system printed two labels for every one that was needed, wasting the expensive piggyback labels. Second, the dot resolution on the printer was so low that it was virtually impossible to print all of the required information on a label. The low resolution also made bar coding difficult. Finally, the printers were slow and costly to maintain, requiring frequent downtime for replacement of printheads and servicing.

Thermal Transfer Printers Create Legible Labels, Less Waste
The pharmacy replaced this system with a pair of M8400Rve and M84Pro printers from SATO America (Charlotte, NC). The SATO printers use thermal transfer technology to print labels at a speed of 10 inches per second, improving throughput. With a resolution of 203 dots per inch, the printers produce legible labels with all of the necessary information. The new printers also allowed the pharmacy to design new, less costly labels. Furthermore, the printers interface directly with the pharmacy's dispensing application, eliminating the extra steps to print labels for the refill tally sheets. With the reductions in label cost, improved throughput, and increased operational efficiency, the pharmacy estimates it saved more than $800,000 in its first year using the new printers.