Healthcare attire supplier implements wash proof, totally traceable label system in the UK & China

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Buckley Lamb is a manufacturer of healthcare attire with a customer base in the UK, throughout Europe and, more recently, in China.  They are involved in every stage of apparel construction from design to distribution and are particularly known for offering exceptional service at a competitive price.  Approximately 60 percent of Buckley Lambs customers are now laundry groups providing a service to NHS hospitals.

Buckley Lamb had to confront a problem that arose following the introduction of the Medical Devices Directive, which defined their products as class one medical devices.  This means that Buckley Lambs products required CE certification, which requires them to be traceable throughout its lifecycle.  Each item has to withstand washing at 71 degrees followed by steam sterilisation at 137 degrees centigrade at least 75 times.

Buckley Lambs existing labelling did not enable its products to meet CE certification.

Solution

In order to meet the requirements of the medical devices directive Buckley Lamb searched the market for a label that would withstand the washing requirements.  They eventually found one company that claimed to have such a label that was heat resistant to 90 degrees washing and could withstand steam sterilisation. The label plus labelling software from Episys and Toshiba TEC printers provided Buckley Lamb with the solution they wanted. 

Richard Lamb, MD of Buckley Lamb, says, since weve used Episys the technical support has been brilliant, weve had absolutely no problems at all with the system.

Buckley Lamb has subsequently moved over to the Episys Ultimate system.  With Episys Ultimate they print a label approximately three centimetres square with three lines of text, a CE label and CE mark on it.  The text gives information on different aspects of the fabric and the product.  This information links each item to the roll of fabric from which it was made, who made it and when, how many products were made from that roll of fabric, who the customer is and the date of inception.  This information is stored on two separate computers and in hard copy so it can be held in three separate places.  This ensures that Buckley Lamb have a complete history of all their customers purchases.

The Toshiba Tec thermal printers which print the labels are also provided by Episys.  Richard Lamb says, theyre brilliant, they dont break down.

A products history is used when strikethrough occurs i.e. any fluid in an operating theatre ends up where it shouldnt, for example on the garments under a surgeons gown.  In the event of strikethrough a garment is quarantined and its history investigated to identify the reason why it failed.   Reasons for strikethrough may, for example, be due to a surgeon wearing the wrong gown for the job, a variance in the fabric, or incorrect laundry procedures being used.  On the three or four occasions there have been a problem, Buckley Lamb has shown that it was not at fault and that the problem was down to either a processing or user issue.

Buckley Lamb has recently expanded its operations to China where they have a partner, a subcontractor capable of manufacturing exactly the same products as those made in the UK.  An identical Episys Ultimate system, including the same model printers, has recently been installed in the factories in China.  Having identical systems throughout allows users, as Richard says, to jump between the two systems without fear of getting things wrong, and makes it easier for the UK operation to solve any problems which arise in China. 

Benefits

The main benefit of the Episys Ultimate system is down to the labels, which do not wash away during the lifecycle of the product and therefore allow complete traceability down to precise batches and rolls of fabric.  In addition Episys Ultimate allows Buckley Lamb more scope to develop the way they record information as well as improve the design of the labels in terms of appearance and the amount of text they hold.  Richard said the Ultimate system does work well.

Buckley Lamb also buy consumables from Episys, ribbons and labels, therefore they only have one point of contact for any issues which arise with the system. Richard says the benefits of dealing with one supplier is that youve got total control of a massively important part of the business.  He adds, The support service from Episys so far has been absolutely fantastic.

The Episys Ultimate system is also very easy to use so that training new users to cover for holiday and sickness, or because of staff turnover is not a problem.  Labels are printed at the time a product is cut, so it is critical that this is not held up, otherwise production of complete batches of work are held up which is expensive.
 

The Future

Richard Lamb says, I do see the relationship continuing in the future.  I dont see a credible alternative and while the system works and is problem free, I see no reason to change it.

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