The Need for Intelligent RTIs

Supply chain optimization has become a way of improving and differentiating your business. It’s no longer just a cost of doing business but a source of competitive advantage as demonstrated by companies like WalMart. Bar coding has been widely employed for this purpose but bar codes have limitations and can only help so much:

  • You have to be able to see the barcodes to read them.
  • Bar codes can’t store actionable data about the condition of the contents such as it’s temperature or transport history.

The critical benefits of actionable data about the condition and location of products are being increasingly recognized across the food and pharmaceutical industries, as well as for asset tracking. Actionable data enables the intelligent supply chain and delivers the ability to improve operational efficiencies and drive out waste. Research indicates that this data is best captured at the pallet, bin or tote level – the domain of the reusable transport item, or RTI.

An intelligent RTI, or iRTI, is a reusable transport item that is embedded with an RFID tag to collect and capture information about the RTI itself as well as its contents. When integrated into a software system, the iRTI provides important actionable data to help address some of the key challenges in today’s supply chains and provide a rapid ROI. And, by employing RFID, you don’t have to actually see the tag to read it and capture the information on the tag. This simplifies operations and can reduce labor costs.

Download the Packaging Revolution iRTI White Paper

Download the Packaging Revolution iRTI White Paper

Rick LeBlanc, editor of Packaging Revolution’s authored this new white paper on the value of Intelligent RTIs.  It’s a great explanation of the benefits of this new solution.  You can download it here.

 

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

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More Benefits of the Cloud

ChainLink Research recently published an interesting article on cloud-based data models.  The article can be found here.

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The view of data is rapidly improving, thanks to advances in Cloud-based solutions.

ChainLink references the following benefits that can be achieved by using The Cloud:

  • Economics: The Cloud is a more economical model: support and maintenance costs are reduced for both the customer and the provider due to a simpler multi-tenant model where upgrades are more easily introduced into the system as they become available. Customers are also able to avoid the costly and disruptive “rip and replace” approach.
  • Collaboration: Businesses are increasingly interconnected and people across the supply chain want to share information more easily.  The Cloud makes sharing information, exchanging ideas and solving problems easier – especially across the supply chain.
  • Connectivity and Visibility: Businesses want access to information outside of the data center and outside of the office. Governments are requiring more transparent access to data to address regulatory requirements. Globalization and traceability requirements can be far easier to address in the Cloud. ChainLink  specifically mentions that “for products that require condition monitoring, tracking has gone from sometime to real-time.”  The Cloud facilitates faster, real-time information sharing.
  • Community: The article references that The Cloud enables an inter-enterprise community which is critical for today’s complex supply chains. ChainLink lists several benefits including more to trading-partner dialog than transactions, such as finding new suppliers, obtaining industry information, communicating with the community about changes in compliance and regulations.

These are key benefits that can help improve quality across supply chains, especially where temperature sensitive goods such as fresh, frozen and packaged foods and bio-pharmaceuticals are involved.  Thanks to solutions incorporating RFID temperature monitors, we’re now able to collect vast quantities of information. But the information is only of value when it’s actionable – that is, when it is easy to use.  Cloud-based solutions, such as ZEST Data Services provide the ability to improve supply chain efficiencies by simplifying and speeding access to the actionable data necessary for improved decision making and collaboration.

ChainLink concludes that The Cloud brings “Power to the User”.  I’d go a step further and say that it the entire supply chain wins when actionable, useful data is made more readily and rapidly available.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

 

Your Shipment Has Been Delayed

The tragic effects of Superstorm Sandy will be with many people for a long time.  I’m fortunate that all of my friends on the east coast are ok, although many remain without power. There are so many difficult issues relating to this storm and the cold supply chain is one that may slip under the radar of most people…but not under the radar of supply chain professionals.

Andrea Charles of Pharma-IQ (part of IQPC) recently wrote an article that asked about supply chains being ready for natural disasters.  She raises the impact of tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes (not to mention blizzards, power outages, or other issues) on the pharmaceutical cold chain. She also speaks to the need to ensure that important medications are available to those affected by a disaster. I won’t debate here about whether climate change is real or not because, whether it is or isn’t, if you’re shipping high value, temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical or food items and your shipment is delayed due to an unpredictable storm or disaster, you’re at risk.

Now What Do You Do?

Andrea quotes Dave Alberts, Director at Crimson & Co. who says: Unfortunately, there is no way in which to fully prepare for such natural disasters as they are unexpected. However, the frequency at which these occur validate that contingency plans must be put in place wherever possible and organizations must attempt to protect product supply through efficient, planned out strategies and best practices. Research into the affects is a good start and companies participating in this are clearly at the forefront of successful and adaptive supply chains.”

Alberts talks about the need for adaptive supply chains.  I agree.  But what makes a supply chain adaptable is intelligence – knowing the condition of your product on-demand as it travels from the manufacturer to its destination.  If your product is stuck at an airport due to cancelled or delayed flights or if a ship can’t dock or a truck can’t get through, you need to know if its temperature is still in range so that you can rechill or reroute as necessary.  You want to be able to do this autonomously and without searching out and opening individual packages.  With so much unpredictability, you can’t account for every conceivable variable but you can build in the ability to proactively manage your supply chain so you can respond in a timely manner when a disaster strikes and help minimize losses.  Wireless temperature monitors that provide actionable data on-demand can help.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Cold Chain ≠ Arrested Development

Netflix gave me an idea when they announced they were resurrecting one of my favorite TV shows.  As I had the pleasure of speaking at an Expeditors International seminar last week about temperature monitoring in the health care cold chain, I decided to tie the theme of my presentation to the soon to be continuing perils of the Bluth Family so well chronicled in the show “Arrested Development”.  The foundation for my presentation was that the cold chain of tomorrow is a very different one from today.  There are a number of changes that are dramatically impacting the industry including:

  • The increasing number of off-patent drugs
  • Increase in the volume and value of biologics
  • The shift to using 3PLs
  • Increasing climate instability making summer/winter packaging riskier
  • The disappearance of wide body aircraft on domestic flights limiting use of active refrigerated containers
  • ePedigree, serialization and inference
  • RFID proven safe for biologics

The impact of these changes will require healthcare manufacturers (both for biologics and even medical equipment) to rethink their cold chains. Even when routes are validated and procedures are in place, what can you do to ensure that temperature sensitive products are safe for use when delivered?  To quote a famous American president:

Trust but Verify

Yes.  Trust but verify.  It’s one thing to trust your supply chain but it’s equally critical to verify that the products have been properly handled as they move from manufacturer to the customer.  ISO Class 3 RFID provides this capability.  Because it can be read through containers without opening or unpacking (helping to document authenticity) and provides a complete temperature and way point history, Class 3 RFID tags (like XC3 Technology) make it easier to implement a solution that helps manufacturers and 3PLs to manage – not just monitor – their cold chains.

The health care and pharma cold chain should utilize new technologies to address new cold chain dynamics.  Doing so will prevent “Arrested Development” for the cold chain and, to quote one of the show’s characters, prevent you from “making a huge mistake”.

To view the presentation on SlideShare, please click here.
Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

IQPC 2012 – Showcasing New Solutions for Domestic Cold Chain Logistics

Today marks the kick-off for the general conference and exhibition at IQPC’s annual cold chain conference in Chicago.  Among all pharma events in the USA, this one features exhibits from pretty much anyone who is anyone in the pharmaceutical cold chain.  Leading up to the event, Todd Keefe published an article in M2M Revolution where he cites that the demand for transporting medical and pharmaceutical products is exploding. He then states that there are significant challenges associated with moving time and temperature sensitive cargo in a way that keeps the cold chain intact, and ensures documented quality of delivery.

Ready to go at the Intelleflex Exhibit at IQPC in Chicago

One of those challenges relates to air cargo.  Keefe writes: Pharmaceutical companies and shippers of perishable commodities need same-day service to move their wares around the country. Yet most of the active air transport containers (with compressors and active monitoring devices) are limited to wide-body aircraft, which are almost exclusively used today for international routes.

So, as active refrigeration options from commercial carriers become harder to find (and likely more expensive) as wide body planes like 747s and 767s are shifted purely to international flights, what are the options?

Keefe discusses a recent test project between Southwest Airlines, Cold Chain Technologies and Intelleflex.  He writes that, at IQPC: Cold Chain Technologies is showcasing a new reusable packaging system that combines vacuum insulated panels, refrigerant materials, and embedded RFID temperature tags from Intelleflex that can maintain a 2°-8°C internal temperature for up to 120 hours.   This type of packaging, when combined with a flight schedule such as Southwest Airlines Cargo’s 3,300 daily nonstop flights, gives shippers a number of options for moving temperature sensitive cargo anywhere in the United States in a matter of hours.

I agree. The option of utilizing a major air carrier’s massive flight schedule to successfully and safely ship temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals across the USA provides a new option for cold chain logistics.

Keefe then describes the project: Cold Chain Technologies, Intelleflex and Southwest validated the solution last month with a pharmaceutical test package that traveled between Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, and San Jose. The time of the journey was six hours and 20 minutes, including time spent in the cargo holds and on the tarmac moving from plane to plane. The external temperature ranged from 78° F to 89° F, yet the internal temperature of the package (which was read repeatedly) remained between 2° and 4° C. The test showed how shipments that need to be maintained between 2°-8°C can be easily shipped with proper temperature management via Southwest Airlines.

You can see these products on the show floor at IQPC today and tomorrow.  Visit us at Intelleflex at booth 40.  I hope to meet you there!

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

SmartView from Antaris Helps Panalpina Gear Up For Temperature Controlled Shipments

SmartView, an award winning solution for cool chain optimization from Intelleflex partner Antaris Solutions, is utilizing RFID solutions such as Intelleflex temperature monitoring tags and readers to enable logistics provider Panalpina to better control and manage shipments of temperature sensitive goods such as pharmaceuticals.  A story, which appeared recently in Logistics Week and a number of other publications details how SmartView delivers new levels of visibility and control by providing Panalpina with actionable data about the status of their shipments as they move from the manufacturer in Europe to the United States via Panalpina’s 747 air freighters.

Panalpina, with operations on six continents, uses SmartView in its own controlled air freight network. SmartView provides Panalpina an integrated control center to manage temperature sensitive shipments throughout the end-to-end supply chain. Temperatures can be documented in the air, and actively monitored in the transit warehouse and on the road. Where there are instances of temperature deviations, Panalpina now has the tools to proactively intervene.

SmartView, from Antaris Solutions, Provides Actionable Data In-transit – Not Just After Delivery

Traditional data loggers only provide information about the condition of a shipment after it has been delivered when it is too late to take any corrective action.  Monitoring the products in transit using Antaris’ SmartView as they move from manufacturer to the customer enables Panalpina to provide a better level of service to their customers creating a competitive advantage for them in the marketplace.  This process can all be automated so that Panalpina can collect data even where they have no personnel.

With the massive increase in the volume and value of temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals, the old approach to monitoring temperature sensitive shipments is inadequate for managing today’s cool chain.  Solutions like SmartView utilize the latest in RFID to address the challenges faced by today’s pharmaceutical manufacturers and third party logistics providers.  You can learn more about SmartView by viewing this recent IQPC webinar in which Antaris Solutions Managing Director explains how SmartView is helping Panalpina deliver a superior service to its customers.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

From NPR: Tissue Tracking and Health Risks

During my drive to the office this morning I heard an interesting story on NPR’s Morning Edition titled Little Regulation Poses Problems Tracking Tissue.  You can listen to or read the entire story here.  According to the story, each year in the United States, almost 1.5 million medical products are used  for surgeries made with tissue taken from cadavers.  Despite this vast number, fortunately there have been few issues or problems so far associated with using human tissue but, when there is an issue, it can be tricky to catch and the consequences can be life threatening.

1.5 million medical products are used each year for surgeries made with human tissue

The story describes a case where tissue contaminated with Hepatitis C was accidentally distributed for use by patients.  Hospitals had to be alerted and the race was on to find where the tissue had been sent.  The story states: In this case, 44 ligaments, tendons and other donated tissue were sent to hospitals and clinics around the country. Unlike organs, which are quickly transplanted, tissue can be saved and stored for use at a much later date. A month later [Italics are mine], the CDC found 15 people already had been implanted, but didn’t contract the disease. That’s because their tissue was scrubbed with strong chemicals. But there was one infection: A child in Boston received a heart patch, and because heart tissue can be cleaned only lightly, that child contracted Hepatitis C. The child’s current health condition hasn’t been made public.

According to the story, the FDA says it continues to evaluate the need for new regulations and has started requiring tissue banks to do limited tracking but, once the tissue is sold to hospitals, clinics and doctors, it is voluntary for those surgeons to report back what tissue gets transplanted into which patient.  And, as the business grows globally and tissue comes to the U.S. from countries around the world, keeping track of tissue is even harder.

Matthew Kuehnert, a doctor at the CDC whose job it is to protect donated blood, organs and tissue suggests the process of receiving tissue should be similar to buying cereal at the grocery store.  Said Kuehnert, “It has a bar code on it, and it can be tracked back if there is some sort of problem with it in terms of quality,” he says. “You can’t do that with tissue right now. And that is a gap.”

While I get where Dr. Kuehnert is going with his cereal analogy, I think it comes up a bit short.  Unlike cereal, tissue is temperature sensitive.  You not only need to be able to track where it has come from and where it is going but also monitor and track the condition that it’s been stored in along the way.  If tissue isn’t stored at the right temperature, it can also cause problems that can lead to health implications.  Bar codes can’t monitor for that. Fortunately, RFID temperature sensors can, while also storing the information about the tissue and help improve track and trace capabilities.  You can read about this here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Returnable Transport Items – Where is the Next Big Win?

I was recently on vacation along the Oregon coast and took a photo that I’ve been quite anxious to share.  There, along the beautiful, pristine beach, where sea lions gather and people search for seashells, I found this:

Just what every beautiful beach needs, a pallet.

A beautiful wooden pallet.  Lost track of.  Serving no purpose.  Cluttering the landscape. Wasting some company’s money. So, when I see an article about the benefits of Returnable Transport Items (RTIs) such as plastic pallets, totes, containers and bins, I pay particular notice.  There are many benefits of moving from wooden or cardboard packaging including improved sanitation, less waste and the potential for implementing close loop systems that can improve profitability.  This morning I came across an article titled Reusables – Where is the Next Big Win?  It talks about the increasing use of RTIs by leading retailers such as Safeway and Kroger and how they’re able to improve operations based on switching to plastic-based returnable, reusable solutions.

Another interesting article Boosting Supply Chain Efficiencies with Reusable Transport Packaging by Justin Lehrer of StopWaste.org elaborates on the benefits when it comes to shipping produce and again references Kroger and Safeway and the benefits they’re seeing from the shift away from legacy transport items.

But is that the next big win?  The movement to RTIs is already underway and demand for them is increasing. Rather, we think the next big win is making RTIs intelligent by integrating temperature sensor devices directly into the pallets, containers, totes and bins.  By adding the ability to monitor and manage the condition of perishable goods such as produce, meats, poultry and pharmaceuticals as they move through the supply chain, growers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers can make decisions about how to pack, bundle and distribute goods more efficiently.  The result is that more food is delivered fresh and more pharmaceuticals are received safe and effective for use.  The result becomes not simply less waste in packaging but less waste in the goods in the package or container.  (You can learn more about our RTI solutions here.)

Hats off to pioneers like Safeway and Kroger for innovating and looking at new ways to solve old problems that reduce waste and (along the way) help keep things like wooden pallets off the beach.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Study Documents RFID Safe for Biopharmaceuticals

A study published this week in the July/August edition of the Parenteral Drug Association’s PDA Journal documents research that showed that in vitro test results for more than 100 biopharmaceutical products from eight major drug companies demonstrated no non-thermal effect by radio frequency radiation.

RFID is OK for Tracking and Monitoring Biopharmaceuticals

What does this mean?  The research conducted by researchers at The University of South Florida, Blood Center of Wisconsin, Abbott, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Madison RFID Lab at the University of Wisconsin documents that using RFID in conjunction with biologics is safe.  The thermal effects of RFID on biologics have been well understood (no impact) but there had, to this point, been limited research on the non-thermal effects (RF radiation) of RFID on product integrity.

Why is this important? Pending ePedigree laws in California (going into effect in 2015 and ultimately impacting the entire industry) are likely to require a combination of RFID and 2D barcoding systems.  Some had questioned whether or not RFID was safe to use for these types of applications but this report (available to PDA members on the PDA website) demonstrates RFID’s safety, enabling technology companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, shippers, 3PLs and health care providers to move forward more aggressively on developing solutions for ePedigree and documenting the safe and authentic shipments of biopharmaceutical products.  But, RFID can add even more value.  Temperature sensor RFID tags, beyond providing the ability to document track and trace records for ePedigree can also be used to monitor and manage the temperature (and related safety and efficacy) of drugs as they move through the supply chain to reduce waste and improve cold chain operations.

You can learn more about Intelleflex solutions for pharmaceuticals here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Fake Drugs Raising Track and Trace Questions

The appearance of fake versions of the ADHD drug Adderall is raising concerns about track and trace laws and how pharmaceuticals need to be monitored to ensure public safety.  The story, reported in numerous media outlets (click here), follows on a similar problem earlier this year with the appearance of counterfeit versions the drug Avastin and coincides with Congressional review on the topic of traceability and counterfeiting. The risks associated with this problem are significant as patients may unwittingly take counterfeit medicines that can do more harm than good.  New FDA regulations, according to the article, could pose a danger to both sides as the government tries to balance public safety against increasing regulations that could stifle innovation.

Real or Fake? Can Technology Improve Authenticity?

The article states that the US House and Senate versions of the FDA re-authorization bill include language that would set up more stringent tracking of drugs to help prevent counterfeiting, but the details have yet to be set. (Citing Reuters)  The FDA wants a nationwide program that includes and tracks identifiers on individual containers. The plan put up by an industry coalition would put unique serial numbers on individual drug packages but require scanning drugs only in “lots” when they get to distributors. They have argued that to expect individual tracking from truck to warehouse to distributor to pharmacies is unworkable, at least for now.

Europe will start requiring unique identifiers on all drug packages starting in 2016.

This has been an ongoing issue for the industry.  California has twice postponed its ePedigree initiatives that are now slated to go into effect commencing in 2015 because of the technical challenge of tracking and tracing pharmaceuticals at the item level.  Yet, as more counterfeit drugs show up on the market, consumers (and ultimately the government) will increase their pressure on the industry.

We think Intelleflex can help with the solution.  Intelleflex temperature monitoring tags can store a complete record of the serial numbers of the individual items within the carton and also a secure e-Pedigree all in the tag memory.  This makes it easier to associate the information about the items with the container that they’re shipped in. And, by using our readers with Zest Data Services, it’s possible to keep track of the drugs no matter where they may go and set secure waypoints at each location.  To learn more about Intelleflex solutions for the pharmaceutical industry, click here.  To read an Intelleflex article on serialization and inference, click here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing